To: all clergy and churchwardens in vacancy
Please note that all documents referred to in this message can be found in the documents section of the national Church of England’s coronavirus guidance pages, but you will need to click on each document in order to download the latest version.
Updated guidance re church buildings: Individual private prayer and funerals plus further planning documents for the future.
Following more work by the Church of England Recovery Group there are now some further advice and guidance papers to help people prepare for the phased reopening of our buildings. These are to assist you in your collaborative decision making as you discern what is good, possible and safe for your context. We also hope that there will be communication within deaneries as we seek to work together across our diocese.
As you are already aware, the Government announced at the weekend its intention that individual prayer will be permitted by law in places of worship in England from next Monday (June 15). We have already stressed that this is permissive and not prescriptive. We are still awaiting new Government guidance and regulations to be published, but in the meantime there is an updated risk assessment template for church buildings and a technical paper on access to church buildings, combining advice and guidance already published in other papers. There is also a note on permission for temporary changes to buildings.
Please note that we still do not know what ‘supervised’ means in government terms, but we will send out information as we receive it.
Following on from the Government announcement regarding individual prayer (and in light of the changing circumstances it reflects), the House of Bishops has revised its advice on conducting funerals inside church buildings from June 15 as long as they take place within Government guidance. However, as with individual prayer, this is permissive and not prescriptive. There will be places where, for a number of reasons, it might still not be advisable or possible to conduct funerals inside church buildings and the decision will be taken locally, in conjunction with archdeacons on behalf of the diocesan bishop. A guidance note has been produced regarding funerals.
Sadly weddings are still not allowed to take place and it is important to note that this is a government decision.
The Recovery Group is also actively preparing for other important aspects of the life of the Church which are not currently possible under the legal restrictions on gatherings. To that end, there is now a paper relating to Holy Communion and how this might take place as safely as possible when public services of worship are again permitted. Please note that this is not currently the case. The paper also contains some helpful reflections on Holy Communion during these present days.
Once again, please be assured that we will keep you fully informed as we receive information.
This comes with our thanks and prayers as ever
Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert