With increased fear in our nation owing to the Coronavirus situation we take seriously our commitment to regularly reviewing our current measures and procedures. Whilst not wanting to ‘over-react’, neither must we ‘under-react’ to the challenges presented to us. As a Mission, we seek to honour the Lord in a watching world, ensuring that our ‘conduct is worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (Philippians 1:27a).
Thankfully, the introduction of the ‘tier system’ of restrictions in England hasn’t impeded open-air work. Travel restrictions for these affected areas are ‘guidance’ and not ‘law’ and travel for ‘work purposes’ or ‘charitable services’ are permitted. For these reasons also, the ‘rule of six’ does not apply to us. However, with tension abounding, it is incumbent upon us to carefully follow the Mission’s current measures which are designed to protect the testimony of the gospel we share, our workers and those we come into contact with.
In Wales, the situation is slightly different with travel restrictions forming law. This has meant that our Associate workers, and more recently our Field Operations Manager, haven’t been able to enter/leave areas of increased restrictions to lead open-airs. That has meant some open-air venues could not be visited. However, thankfully, the legislation and accompanying guidance do permit open-airs to continue within affected areas (provided the worker and Registered Supporter are residents of that region). However, this has all been superseded by a national ‘lockdown’ in Wales where people are required by law to ‘stay home’ as much as possible and many sectors in society having to close. With the closure of non-essential retail outlets, we are back to the situation of March and, therefore, sadly, no open-airs may take place in Wales until these restrictions are lifted.
The recent review meeting identified areas where it is safe and legal for us to ease restrictions. The knowledge of how the virus is spread has increased over recent months and the greater risk is from airborne droplets. In the open-air these risks are minimal, especially with social distancing and hygiene measures. Transmission risks from touched surfaces are now known to be less of a risk than previously thought. Having proceeded cautiously hitherto, we know believe it is time to reintroduce active literature distribution.
Those comfortable with doing so may now offer tracts/leaflets to passers by in order to engage with them. These should be offered to those approaching us, thus giving the person the opportunity to decline if they do not want to engage with us or are nervous about receiving something. As per our hygiene procedures, hand sanitiser should be used at regular intervals and you should avoid handling large bundles of leaflets at any one time. Once literature has been handed over, please ensure social distancing is maintained. Risk assessments are being updated to incorporate these changes to demonstrate our diligence in these matters as a society and also to satisfy our insurance liabilities.
We were also able to adjust our stance on car-sharing (giving lifts to the open-air). Government guidance now permits this but only where it cannot be avoided. Therefore, where a Worker/Registered Supporter cannot reasonably make their own way to the open-air, then car sharing is permitted for one additional household as passengers. This is subject to mitigating measures to protect driver and passengers. OAM guidance to this affect has been issued to our all staff and Associate workers.
We appreciate that some of our measures have been frustrating to some but we hope we have demonstrated that our approach has been prayerful and careful in seeking to be safe and legal. We trust that these new measures in place will greatly facilitate the gospel going forth in our land in a way that is honouring to the Lord and is wise and winsome towards those we meet. As the Apostle Paul encouraged the believers at Colosse, ‘Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving’ (Colossians 4:2a).
22nd October 2020