As you know, we were planning to hold a face to face event in 2021 and had both the site and main speakers booked. To be with each other, to hear God’s word and sing his praises together is so valuable and precious. We had hoped that we would be able to offer that ‘in person’ experience next year.
Last week, to prepare for a trustees meeting, I spoke to Public Health Wales and Prestatyn Environmental Health to find out what would be possible if we were holding an event today – only to be told Denbighshire had just gone into lockdown. Non-essential travel in and out of the area was not allowed, and Pontins were closing their doors that day.
When the trustees met this week, we soon concluded a physical 2021 event was not possible. The decision had effectively been taken out of our hands by the closure of the Pontins site. In addition to that, the level of operating constraints that will have to be imposed to justify it re-opening, would make our event impossible. We are obviously sad but unsurprised to have a conclusion we were gradually coming to being brought forward in this way.
Let me share some of the thoughts we had been going through prior to this news from Pontins. We asked ourselves the following questions about an in-person event at Pontins.
Would it be allowed legally?
At present as per closure of Pontins in response to local regulations – the answer is no. We obviously don’t know what restrictions will be in place by April next year, but it seems irresponsible to plan for an event that isn’t currently allowed.
Would it be financially viable?
We are so grateful for the financial support so many of you have given us. And we are very aware that support was given to enable the future of Word Alive. However, an event with social distancing requirements would need to have far fewer guests which would mean much lower income. At the same time, we’d need large venues to have enough space and so our costs would be high. From the financial work we’ve done, a reduced event would lose a large amount of money and put the long-term future of Word Alive at risk.
Would it be a desirable and enjoyable event?
With the coronavirus restrictions that will most likely be in force, we fear it would make for a poor Word Alive. For instance, when Pontins was open, guests had to stay in their ‘household’ groups. That meant the venues had tables of up to six and you could only sit with others from your accommodation. At present we wouldn’t be allowed to sing together and would probably wear masks in venues.
Would it be socially responsible?
It might well be seen by many to be irresponsible to hold an event at this stage in the pandemic. Given the nature of the event with a structured programme and youth and children’s groups, Word Alive could be responsible for a considerable spread of the virus.
To sum up, the lockdown in North Wales and the closure of Pontins confirmed what we were gradually concluding – that we couldn’t hold a face to face next year.
Instead, we are going to put our energies into providing online resources in lieu of Word Alive 2021 as well as working on an event for 2022. We are very aware we can’t replicate Word Alive online and so are asking the question – how can we best serve the church with an online offering?
To answer that we’ll be thinking and planning hard over the next few months, learning from others, and would be very pleased to hear from you. If you have thoughts or ideas on what you would find helpful please do let us know as soon as you can. (A reminder that we have moved out of our office due to building works so that phone number is no longer in use).
Please do join us in praying that the Lord leads us forward in how best we can serve you next year. We’ll be in touch with more details later in the autumn.