Message from the Session Clerk

Dear members and friends of Portland

The COVID-19 crisis is uncertain and complex and our understanding of it is evolving. When the Scottish Government published their Route Map, they said that it will be updated as the evidence and information changes.

We are (as I write) in Phase 2 which states – “Places of worship can open for private prayer under physical distancing rules and hygiene safeguards”.  It is important to remember that Phase 2 of the Scottish Government’s four-phase plan refers only to individual prayer and not to minister or worship leader led prayer.  Portland’s Kirk Session is in the process of examining the guidelines issued by the Church of Scotland with a view to reopening the church buildings as soon as the Scottish Government moves to Phase 3 which states – “Places of worship can open to extended groups subject to physical distancing and hygiene safeguards”.  We will only reopen the church buildings if we are convinced that it is safe to do so and there is a desire from the congregation to do so.

As we move into Phases 3 and 4, congregations will be able to use their church buildings more to support local mission and worship alongside the wider needs of the community.  However, as there is legislation in place restricting the use of church buildings, it is the responsibility of the Scottish Government to provide a regulatory framework for when congregations can reopen their church buildings and for what purpose.  The Scottish Government is expected to publish additional guidance on which activities will be permitted in church buildings during phase 3.

Ultimately it is the congregation as a body which must ensure that suitable steps are taken.  Compliance is not solely the responsibility of the charity trustees (Kirk Session) of a congregation: safety for all will only be achieved if each individual member adheres to good practice.  It is the responsibility of every congregation to ensure that there are suitable and sufficient arrangements in place to comply with health and safety legislation.  To that end, the Kirk Session has appointed a Covid-19 Committee to specifically examine the Health and Safety legislation and the guidance issued by the Church of Scotland.  We will only consider reopening the church building if it is possible to comply with all aspects of health and safety. Meanwhile, we will work towards the day we are allowed to reopen the church buildings.  We will continue to provide our Online Services and support each other as a Christian family.

Pray for our Interim Moderator, Bill Duncan and our Locum Minister, Rev Mary Elizabeth Prentice-Hyers.  Pray for the isolated members of our community and help those you can.  Keep your spirits high and as you stand and stare at God’s wonderful creation, think how blessed we are that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we may have everlasting life.

May God’s peace be with You,

John Reid (Session Clerk)