Dear brothers and sisters
Once again Bishop Robert and I want to assure you of our prayers and thank you for the way you are living your ministry among the people and places of your lives in different ways.
We hope that you rested well this weekend as you continue to live with uncertainty and embrace the ups and downs of each present moment. I won’t repeat everything we have said elsewhere.
Many of you will have heard the Prime Minister yesterday evening and at present there is no new guidance regarding places of worship. However, as you know the House of Bishops agreed last week that diocesan bishops can now issue guidance on the gradual easing of restrictions on our activities whilst our church buildings need to remain closed. I am therefore now issuing issue some new permissive guidance within the parameters of existing government guidance.
From today Incumbents, or Area Deans where there is no incumbent, can appoint one member of clergy or a lay leader in their parish/benefice to enter the church building. The appointed person should be a clergy person licensed to the benefice, or a licensed Reader or a lay leader with an official role in the worshipping community.
The appointed person can enter the church building for either or both of the following:
- Private prayer on behalf of the worshipping community
- Live stream or pre-record worship
If you are streaming worship and the appointed person has other people in their household, one member of that household can assist. The allowances do not extend to bell ringers, musicians, community volunteers etc.
The church building should be near to where the appointed person lives and the door should be locked whilst they are in the building.
Consideration needs be given to the necessary hygiene and physical distancing precautions that are required when re-entering the church building. Guidance from the National Church can be found here.
It’s important to reiterate that this guidance is permissive not prescriptive, and clergy and lay leaders may decide not to go back into their church buildings but to continue to lead prayer and worship from home. It may also be that it is not easy to identify someone to enter the church building given that those who are over 70 or who have an underlying health condition (or who need to stay at home so as not to put another member of the household at risk) should not be going in and out of the church building. I also want to reiterate that there is no compulsion to stream worship.
Our priority must be to act responsibly so as to safeguard ourselves and other people from infection.
If after reading all the documentation carefully you have any questions then please do address them to the Archdeacons.
Chaplains ministering in places with chapels will continue to abide by the guidance of the relevant institution.
Bishops and Archdeacons are aware that you and your worshipping communities will have a number of questions about the future, but please note that we will issue information and clear messaging as and when government guidance is revised at every stage. The House of Bishops continues to meet regularly to keep everything under review and I, Bishop Robert and the Archdeacons are here to support you as best we can.
I end with some pertinent words from this week’s collect:
‘Grant that as by your grace going before us you put into our minds good desires, so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect, through Jesus Christ our risen Lord.’
Once again I thank you for your partnership in the Gospel, and this comes with my thanks and prayers.