From the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England – latest update on Covid-19 on 24th March

Dear Sister and Brothers in Christ,

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement last night, it is imperative that for the health of the nation and in order for the National Health Service itself to manage the increase in those requiring medical help, the Church of England strictly observes the new guidelines on staying at home and only making journeys that are absolutely necessary, such as shopping for essential items and to take daily exercise.

Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own. A notice explaining this should be put on the church door (please find template attached). We must take a lead in showing our communities how we must behave in order to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus.

We must also do all that we can to provide resources and support for those who are isolated, fearful and vulnerable. But we have to do this from our homes. A number of national online resources (https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online) including weekly streamed services and daily audio, as well as additional worship provision on the BBC are there to help us, and more are on their way. Please do all that you can to point people to this content.It is also imperative that as the Church of Jesus Christ, called to offer hope and light in the darkness of this world’s ills, we maintain a praying presence for our community, though from today onwards this must happen from our hearts and from our homes.

Our Church buildings are closed but the Church must continue to support and encourage our communities making use of telephones and other forms of technology to keep in touch with people and ensure pastoral care is maintained, and as shepherds of Christ’s flock we are committed to making this happen.

In summary, these are the guidelines we must all now follow:
1. Our church buildings are closed for public worship and for private prayer.
2. Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible.
3. There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice.
4. Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.
5. Live streaming of services is more important than ever and is still permissible from homes. We encourage us all to consider how we can be as creative as possible with streaming services and other resources. There are many, many fantastic examples of churches and clergy using technology to reach and engage communities. Read more guidance here
6. Foodbanks should continue where possible under strict guidelines and may have to move to be delivery points not places where people gather. If you can, do consider making a financial contribution to your nearest foodbank.

These are unprecedented times. We are all having to get used to being the Church differently. It is not easy. However, our belonging to Christ has never been measured by the number of people in church on a Sunday morning (though we long for the day when this way of knowing Christ can return) but by the service we offer to others. Therefore, and despite these very harrowing restrictions, please do all that you can to minister to your people safely, especially to the sick, the vulnerable and the poor.

With our thanks to you all for you are bearing at this extraordinary time. We know that God is with us and we pray with you that in the midst of all this pain and sorrow we can remain focussed on the One who gives us hope.

With every blessing,
+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis

 

Ad Clerum From the Bishop of Chichester – latest update on Covid-19 on 17 March

Dear brothers and sisters,

Following yesterday evening’s message from the Prime Minister and discussions in Parliament, the Archbishops have announced that Church is Changing. The communication can be found at https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/archbishops-call-church-england-become-radically-different-public-worship.

The two key points are that public worship should be suspended (this will include Holy Week services) but that churches should where possible remain open for prayer.  This suspension will remain in place until further notice.

The strapline is that the church is changing.  The Church, the life of the people of God, the presence of the body of Christ on earth, continues to exist.  However, the manifestation of our presence is changing.

What does this mean in practical terms?

  • The suspension of public worship does not apply to weddings, funerals, baptisms, and licensing. However, these should go ahead with as few people in attendance as possible. Clergy should use their discretion on what limits to apply.  For example, it would be reasonable to limit attendance to the immediate family, excluding anyone who is at risk from infection.  If you need further guidance and support, please contact your archdeacon.
  • Please keep checking the updates at https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches, where you will find answers to frequently asked questions, with more are being added.
  • PCC and other meetings should only go ahead if the chair considers that there is important or essential business. Those who can use email, telephone or video conferencing, should feel free to do so.
  • If there are particular matters you wish to see addressed in my letter on Thursday, please let Anna Quick know by emailing adminhelpdesk@chichester.anglican.org. I will not be able to address all but will address as many as possible.
  • Please ensure that if your church is open, there is a handwashing facility available and all other health and safeguarding regulations are in place,
  • Please remove all prayer books, hymn books, prayer cards, etc that might be used by more than one person.
  • Many people value being able to light a candle as a sign of prayer; it is good to make this possible.
  • You might want to have a poster with contact details available (email and phone number) for the clergy or any other people who have a public and authorised ministry.

This is a massive shift in ministerial life, and it will require us to dig deep into our spiritual reserves and discipline.  Inevitably, other issues will also need to be addressed.  I will be in touch with you again on Thursday to give you an update on advice as it is received from the Church’s advisors nationally.  We will also give details of the Day of Prayer and Action this Sunday when we are asking people to light a candle at 7.00 pm and put it in the window.

We are also working on producing resources from within the diocese for the strengthening and continuation of our spiritual and pastoral life – our apostolic witness. 

Finally, please be assured of my continued prayers and my confidence that nothing can separate us from the love of God made known in Christ Jesus.

Bishop Martin