Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We welcome the Government’s announcement that, as of 19 July, most COVID restrictions will be lifted if its “four tests” for easing restrictions have been met. The Government will share its final decision on 12 July about whether we proceed to Step 4. Once restrictions are lifted, it is likely that the Government will lay out guidance that will help us in our informed decision-making as parishes. It is unclear what this guidance will be. However, the signs are that, subject to the 12 July announcement, all legal restrictions will be lifted on 19 July and the legislation will not be reviewed. The Places of Worship Taskforce will be meeting on 14 July and will inform the CofE on specific guidance. Parishes will need to continue to assess carefully for themselves the levels of risk and pace which they wish to take.
There will no doubt be much rejoicing that congregational singing will be returning. With that in mind, the Bishop’s Advisory Group on Liturgy (BAGL) has written a resource entitled, ‘O Lord Open Our Lips’ to help you as you introduce singing once more. We are extremely grateful to the BAGL for continuing to think reflectively on useful liturgical resources. Returning to congregational singing will restore to us full responsibility for the conduct of our worship. The responsibility will remain with places of worship to work out the pattern and pace at which they would like to proceed, depending on their own circumstances and contexts. If you are not sure, please contact your Archdeacon for advice.
Restoration of the chalice
We are awaiting national guidance on the use of the chalice, yet to be published, but the Bishop has said that, subject to that guidance, parishes may include the restoration of the chalice into their risk assessments and he will permit parishes to continue to administer in one kind for the time being should they decide to do so. Options will also be suggested – again subject to the guidance being published – for those parishes wishing to reintroduce the chalice more rapidly.
Response of the Bishop of London, Chair of the CofE’s Covid Recovery Group
We echo Bishop Sarah Mullally’s response, copied here in full:
“I welcome the Prime Minister’s presentation of the latest scientific data which underpins their decision in principle to lift most restrictions from July 19.
The vaccination programme has been an answer to prayer but, while it has transformed the outlook of the pandemic, it has not eliminated all risk.
So it is right, as the Prime Minister has said, that we all must exercise personal responsibility and carefully manage the risks from Covid-19.
As Christians, called to love our neighbour as ourselves, we must also exercise collective responsibility and continue to take appropriate precautions to protect others.
Over the past 18 months we have mourned the tens of thousands who have died from Covid-19.
We have also all made sacrifices and seen previously unimaginable changes to our way of life as we sought to protect one another and especially those who are most vulnerable.
In churches that has meant unprecedented restrictions on the way we practise our faith itself, affecting our ability to meet together, to sing together and to celebrate the sacraments together, all of which are at the heart of our worship.
We have also seen particular restrictions on the way we marked major events in our lives through baptisms, weddings and funerals; sadly many were denied the basic comforts of sharing moments of joy and pain with others.
I’ve been inspired by the way churches have risen to the challenge, finding new ways of gathering to worship God, reach out and serve their neighbours in these difficult times.
I have been deeply moved by the extraordinary efforts of those working on the front line in our NHS and social care.
And I would also like to highlight the sacrifices, often overlooked, made by children and young people to protect us all for so long during such a formative time in their lives.
I am also mindful of those who lives have been radically changed by the effects of long COVID.
We will await the new Government advice for places of worship and adapt our guidance to churches accordingly.”
Back To Church materials
The Revd Canon Jay Colwill and the Mission Department are currently working on materials for parishes to use for Back To Worship Sunday in September. We will share more information with you in due course.
We encourage you to continue to be mindful and patient over the coming days, weeks and months. It has been encouraging to see how people in our parishes are supporting and caring for one another and the wider community, showing God’s love in practical and spiritual ways. As restrictions lift, it will be all our responsibility to be understanding and thoughtful of one another. Throughout the pandemic we have ensured that people have been informed by providing full details of what they are allowed to do. We will continue to provide you with the necessary information.
All good wishes,
The Coronavirus Task Group
(Bishop Christopher, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, the Venerable Alastair Cutting, Ruth Martin and Sophia Jones)