As Covid pandemic restrictions begin to ease, this is let you know how recent changes affect us at the Meeting House and 43 St Giles. We are also drawing your attention ways of keeping all safe and secure.
We are still limited on numbers by room capacity and social distancing. We will increase the level of cleaning in all rooms as the building use increases.
Please follow these simple guidelines when visiting us:
Use the hand sanitiser on arrival and departure.
Wear a mask in the building.
Maintain social distancing.
If you use the NHS smartphone app, scan the QR code displayed in the lobby of 43 to comply with Test and Trace regulations.
Give your name and contact details to welcomers who monitor numbers and record details for Test and Trace.
We are open for support groups meeting indoors, subject to social distancing and room capacity.
Our garden spaces can be booked for groups of 6 people meeting socially distanced.
It’s important to book a slot with staff, as we need to know who is in the building or gardens at any one time. Simply email the office and we can put you in the diary. Note that the office staff continue to be part-time furloughed, so it’s important to make bookings on email and, please, give us some notice.
Looking ahead (subject to confirmation by HM Government)…
On Monday 17th May, in addition to the above:
We will be open for all groups of up to 6 people indoors, subject to social distancing and room capacity.
Our garden spaces can be booked for groups of up to 30 people meeting socially distanced.
Regarding bookings, see the notes above.
On Monday 21st June, we expect to be fully open for all groups again without restrictions on numbers.
Elders are pleased to report that our Friends’ Meeting House will soon re-open for in-person Meetings for Worship; our current Meetings for Worship on Zoom will continue.
In-person Meetings will begin on Sunday 14th March, starting with our Meeting for Worship at 9.30 and followed by our Meeting for Worship at 11.00. The fFriends in the Meeting House will continue to greet those worshipping at 9.30 and 11.00 via Zoom, but then will close the internet link so that the Meetings can continue separately for their period of silent worship.
We expect our midweek Meetings (Young Adult Friends, Tuesday and Thursday breakfast, and Wednesday lunchtime) to continue on Zoom. However, convenors can exercise their discretion as to whether to hold an in-person Meeting at No. 43 concurrently with the online gathering.
Our usual social distancing and cleaning practices will continue. fFriends will register for each meeting for track-and-trace purposes; wear masks except when ministering; and then clean chairs, toilets etc. after the meeting. See also Meetings for Worship During the Coronavirus Pandemic
For fFriends planning to return to the Meeting House we will be very grateful for assistance in welcoming at the beginning of Meeting and for general assistance in cleaning, neither of which is onerous. If you are happy to assist, please contact me: email@example.com
Friends who attend Wednesday Meeting are going to experiment with a new time for our lunchtime meetings for a couple of months. From Wednesday 10th February, we will meet from 11.30am to 12.15pm. We hope that this change may enable Friends who live in care homes to fit in our Meeting for Worship before their lunchtimes (usually around 12.30pm).
All Friends are welcome to join us for our midweek gathering on Zoom. Several Friends also uphold the meeting quietly from their homes.
Oxford Quaker Meeting is running a fortnightly programme of Enquiry Meetings on Thursday evenings from December to April. These will be online and start at 7.30 with the Zoom room opening at 7 p.m (see below for codes). All are welcome.
Although the meetings are aimed primarily at those who have been attending Quaker meeting for a short period of time ( anything from a few weeks to a few years), they will also be of interest to anyone who wants to think more about what it means to be a Quaker and a member of the Society of Friends.
Sessions will last up to an hour and a quarter and will usually consist of an introduction by a Friend, followed by reflection, discussion and questions. It would be a good idea to have Quaker Faith and Practice available during sessions. If you don’t have a printed copy you can find it online at https://qfp.quaker.org.uk/.
Following guidance from Britain Yearly Meeting, Oxford Meeting set up a “Covid Group” at the first lockdown in March 2020. This group of Friends includes our Convenor of Elders, a Clerk of the Meeting, Clerk of Premises and Finance and the office staff. They consult and review decisions affecting the holding and running of Meetings for worship regularly.
In early January, in light of increasing risks from the new coronavirus variants, the group decided that No. 43 and the Meeting House should be closed to public Meetings for Worship for January. Although cases in our area are now slowly reducing, Oxford is still reporting above average daily cases and the situation remains critical. Therefore, the Covid group has decided that the Meeting House should remain closed to the public for February and intends to review the situation again at the end of February.
Meetings for Worship continue via Zoom, and many Friends hold quiet meetings in their own homes. In addition, the office staff invite you to join their ‘open office’ on Tuesdays and Thursdays 10.30-11am for coffee and chat on Zoom.
Our Pastoral Care group is doing great work supporting, and keeping in touch with, Friends by phone, and we can all join in by giving someone a call.
We understand that for a small number of Friends this feels particularly isolating. Office staff will remain in touch with these Friends to support them over this period.
Elders are pleased to report that our Friends Meeting House has now re-opened for in-person Meetings for Worship, combining with our current Meetings for Worship already occurring on Zoom.
For our two Meetings on a Sunday, the Friends in the Meeting House will continue to greet those worshipping at 9.30 and 11.00 via Zoom, but then will close the internet link so that the Meetings can continue separately for their period of silent worship.
For our Meetings that occur midweek (Young Adult Friends, Tuesday and Thursday Breakfast Meetings, and Wednesday Lunchtime Meetings) we expect them to continue in their usual blended manner, (although discretion can be used by convenors as to whether to blend for each meeting).
We are also planning to hold a Meeting for Worship on Christmas Day at 10.30 via Zoom and in the Meeting House following the same new format – an opening greeting before separate group worship in the Meeting House in parallel with Friends worshipping via Zoom.
In pre-COVID times, every November saw the annual service when members of the homeless community and their friends and supporters came together to remember those living on the street who had died in the past year. In a moving celebration Mary Gurr, chaplain to the homeless community, read out their names and a candle was lit for each named person, usually by a friend or someone who had worked with them or known them well. After the service we shared tea and cake and reminiscences. It was always an occasion of great pathos as well as shame that in a wealthy city like Oxford some of our most vulnerable citizens could be left to die on our streets.
This year we are unable to meet, commemorate, and drink tea afterwards, sharing memories of our friends. Instead, from 10:00 to 18:00 from Monday 16 to Friday 20 November, the city church of St Michael at the North Gate in Cornmarket Street will be open (and COVID-secure) for anyone to call in and light a candle and remember all those whose lives have ended in this way in 2020. It will be good if some members of our community take this opportunity to remember members of the homeless community in our midst.
For the period of lockdown starting on 5th November, 43 St Giles will be closed for in-person Meetings for Worship. All our regular Meetings for Worship will be continuing as usual via Zoom. For times and information on accessing Zoom, please visit Meetings for Worship During the Coronavirus Pandemic.