Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives

Bishop Christopher says: “With Coronavirus cases rising across the country and a new more transmissible UK variant, we have now entered a third national lockdown which I realise is a very difficult time across South London and East Surrey as well as for each of us personally. Given the large number of major hospitals in the Diocese – all under great pressure – please pray for our hospitals at this testing time, for staff and patients. We must hope fervently that the vaccination programmes will soon begin to make a difference for the better.

“We have a duty to consider the needs of the whole community, particularly the most vulnerable and those who are isolated – the most vulnerable in our communities must shield and we must all stay at home wherever possible. Our churches can remain open for public worship and private prayer but there may be very good reasons in particular local and personal contexts to move solely to online worship until the numbers of infections reduce significantly – in the Borough of Lambeth today, for instance, the number of COVID cases is twice the national average. We need to be cautious and careful in the decisions we are making.

“It is at this time of high anxiety and stress that we need to respect the considered decisions that are being – and indeed can only be – made locally unless public worship is restricted again legally. You will be fully supported in the decisions you make and there is advice and guidance on the appropriate process for making these decisions. If Clergy are feeling in need of the support of their Area Dean, or Archdeacon, or indeed Bishop, concerning the decisions they are taking and the pressure they might be feeling they should be in touch and that support is guaranteed.

“I ask that we all please speak well of, and demonstrate our respect for, each other as we each take our share of responsibility for ensuring the safety and well-being of the whole community, as well as our nearest and dearest and of course ourselves. Public Health England has so far only identified 47 cases nationally of church-related transmission so I want to thank our parishes for the magnificent efforts that have been made to protect and safeguard those coming to church to worship in person. Moreover, the Government has recognised the importance of public worship for the spiritual, physical, and mental health and well-being of our people.

“The Bishops are grateful for the creative ways in which patterns of worship have been sustained though often modified in recent months. Churches across the Diocese are reaching different decisions according to their own contexts and this is entirely appropriate, good, and proper. There are churches that plan to remain open. If so, please be reminded that you must be rigorous in your risk assessment, before during and after services and private prayer. Others will close to public worship but offer limited access for private prayer, with recorded or streamed live services, and perhaps a midweek celebration of the Eucharist which will attract smaller numbers (you may wish to read the attached letter from my own parish priest, Canon Anna Norman-Walker). Others will want to offer a mixed-mode approach with a reduced pattern of Sunday and in some cases daily public worship (I commend the Dean of Southwark’s comments below).

“As we journey through these further challenges of the pandemic – with a situation that is changing and being constantly reassessed almost daily – please be sure of my support and encouragement together with my prayers and blessing for you all.”

Please be reminded that, throughout Christmastime to Candlemas, the Archdeacons are providing filmed services here and Bishop Christopher will be streaming a service from the Chapel at Bishop’s House every Sunday at 9.30am. Please do not hesitate to contact your Bishops, Archdeacons and Area Deans for conversations and advice as and when necessary. They will do their best to keep in touch with you.

To read the Government’s national guidance, click here:

For the latest information from the Church of England, click here: – and please ensure you have a refreshed risk assessment for services taking place in churches during the lockdown, including considering those involved in facilitating worship taking place, and any implications for those needing to travel by public transport.

Southwark Cathedral

The clergy at the Cathedral have thought long and hard about how to manage the difficult situation that we face as we are allowed to offer public worship whilst not encouraging people to leave their homes and take unnecessary risks with their health. This is a dilemma that we face in common with all the churches in the Diocese and elsewhere. We realise that the decision as to whether to open for public worship is one which needs to be made carefully in each situation and that the decision made will be different according to the needs of the people and the clergy who serve them. As Mother Church for the Diocese, we want to continue to be a place of worship and prayer online and in person as we have been whenever we could in the past few months. To this end, we are restricting the number of in-person services that we are offering and there will be fewer numbers able to attend these services. We hope that by doing this we will be able to respond to people’s spiritual needs and still keep people as safe as possible. So, the following pattern of worship is being introduced.

Sunday – the Cathedral will be open for private prayer from 10.00am–1.00pm
9.00am Morning Prayer (live-streamed)
11.00am Choral Eucharist (live-streamed and in-person)
6.00pm Night Prayer (online)

Monday – Friday – the Cathedral will be open for private prayer from 12noon–2.00pm
9.00am Morning Prayer (live-streamed)
12.30pm Midday Prayer (in-person)
12.45pm Eucharist (in-person)
8.00pm Night Prayer (online)

Saturday – the Cathedral will be open for private prayer from 12noon–2.00pm
9.00am Morning Prayer (live-streamed)
8.00pm Night Prayer (online)

The Chapter will continue to review this pattern of worship and our risk assessments for each service. All online services can be found at

Here is a statement from the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group of which Bishop Christopher is a member:

“The Prime Minister’s words tonight underline the severity of the situation for the country, as the virus continues to spread rapidly. At a time like this, the Church is here to offer comfort and spiritual support to everyone. We have a duty to care for each other, but particularly those who are vulnerable or who may be most at risk.

“The Government has chosen not to suspend public worship in England at this time and we will continue to follow the guidance and ensure that churches remain as safe as possible. The Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship makes clear that those attending a place of worship must not mingle with anyone outside their household or support bubble.

“However, some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time being. Clergy who have concerns, and others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home.

“I would urge everyone in our churches to pray for those on the front line in our public services – the NHS and those working in social care, for schools and many others on whom we depend; and for parents and carers of children at this anxious and stressful time.

“There is hope. The vaccination programme is underway and, as Christians, we have a deeper hope in God that comforts us beyond fear itself. As we have been remembering this Christmas Season, even in the midst of our darkest fears, that hope brings light.”



Even though many schools may be “closed” temporarily, the reality is that provision for keyworkers’ children and vulnerable children is continuing. A number of churches have also made important supportive links with food banks and other provision in recent months too. Please continue to support your local schools (whether church or state) and their teaching staff during this time. If you have wisdom or have heard good news stories of what is happening to share, we would love to hear from you.

The CTG will continue to monitor the guidance and information daily. It is likely that guidance will change over the course of the developing context of the pandemic. Please bear in mind that we are now in a period of heightened expectations now that a vaccine is being rolled out, but many of us are also anxious because of the new variant of the virus. We need to continue to lift one another up in prayer, provide the practical support and encouragement where needed, working together to uphold and support each other.

Thank you for all that you are doing in responding to the call of keeping our parishes safe and continuing to engage with our local communities in whatever ways are safe and possible to do so.

Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. And let us pray for each other, commending ourselves and our whole community to the loving mercy of our Lord and Saviour.

The Coronavirus Task Group
(Bishop Christopher, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, the Venerable Alastair Cutting, Ruth Martin and Sophia Jones)