As you will be aware the government has announced the good news that church buildings will be able to open for supervised individual prayer from Monday 15 June.
How we plan to do this safely will be vital and we now await detailed government guidance to enable this first step to opening our church buildings. On Friday we sent you details of planning documents, produced by the Church of England’s Recovery Group, which included opening for individual prayer which will help guide and inform your planning conversations. We will keep people notified of updated guidance as it is received. Do note that the existing planning document had assumed that churches could be left unattended – this will not now be the case.
It’s important to say that this guidance is permissive not prescriptive, and depending on local circumstances clergy and lay leaders may decide they are not able to safely open church buildings for individual prayer on 15 June. We hope that conversations will now take place between clergy and lay leaders and across deaneries as part of the planning process.
Guidance on leading online worship remains unchanged. Our priority must be to act responsibly so as to safeguard ourselves and other people from infection.
As soon as we receive any further guidance we will ensure to share it with you. Please see a statement made on Saturday night by The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, chair of the Church of England’s Recovery Group.
“We welcome the Government’s announcement today that church buildings can open up for supervised individual prayer from June 15. This is the start of the journey for church buildings to open up safely in line with Government advice and we look forward to their detailed guidance on enabling this first step to happen.
“Advice has already been circulated to all our dioceses to enable local churches to plan ahead for opening up for individual prayer. Our advice recognises that a particular local church may or may not be able to open at the same time as others and collaborative working between local churches is encouraged. A simple risk assessment template has been provided.
“Throughout this crisis churches have been serving their communities in a range of practical ways but this announcement recognises that the buildings themselves are important sacred spaces for people. We also remember all at this time who mourn the loss of a loved one who died during the crisis and recognise that this is a fragile time in the prevention of the spread of this virus.
“We look forward to when it is safe for our church buildings once again to become meeting places for worship, prayer and all they do to serve and bless their communities.”
As ever, please read all the information carefully, but if you still have unanswered questions please contact the Archdeacons.
This comes with our continued thanks and prayers.
Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert