Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As of Monday 19 July, all legal COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted and on Friday afternoon the Church of England issued detailed guidance. If Clergy and Church Wardens, in particular, haven’t done so already, we strongly advise that you read and digest it thoroughly. We have provided a brief summary here in this bulletin and Dean Andrew Nunn has written a FAQ’s document which we hope you will find useful.
Although it is now up to us to make our own decisions and choices, the Bishops are advising that people move forward cautiously. Every parish and context is different and you will need to look at your risk assessments accordingly. We advise that parishes seek to balance every spectrum of views as you reach your new normal. This will require a delicate balancing act.
Bishop Sarah, who chairs the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said in a statement: “The relaxation of restrictions on Monday is only possible because of the vaccination programme which has reduced the percentage of those with Covid who become seriously ill or die.
“We are indebted to all who have developed and administered the vaccines and we encourage anyone who has not yet done so to take advantage of the protection they offer.
“Many will welcome the possibilities now before us, not least increased numbers at life events and a long awaited return of congregational and amateur choir singing.
“However, this is a difficult point in the course of the pandemic. Despite vaccination rates, cases are up, hospital admissions are up and long covid remains an ongoing concern. Therefore our approach needs to be cautious and careful.
“Taking personal responsibility means responsibility for our neighbour, not just for ourselves, and taking precautions to protect those more vulnerable than we consider ourselves to be. Local church leaders know their communities and their own circumstances, and we will support them making local decisions to keep themselves and their community safe. We would ask everyone to support those making local decisions and respect risk assessments, which are in place to protect everyone as we enter the next phase.”
You are now allowed to sing as a congregation. However, you may want to consider introducing hymns gradually. Maybe a processional hymn to start with, for example. Remember, with the good weather, singing outdoors is still an option.
Children and Young People
There are no restrictions.
You can now meet together socially after the service for refreshments. While this is wonderful news for many of us, please do a thorough risk assessment and do what you can to keep people safe.
The physical sharing of the peace is allowed. Be mindful of those who may want to continue to keep social distancing. If you reintroduce it, find ways to include those who are distancing.
Administering the Chalice is now allowed. Please consider how and when you would do this. There is no need to rush and it is important that you take local considerations into account. If you introduce it now, please be mindful of those who do not wish to receive it and how you honour them in the liturgy.
The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers has provided up to date guidance here.
Please continue to be cautious, careful and thoughtful as you move forward over the coming days, weeks and months. Be assured that this is not a race and we advise that you go at a pace that works for you. We realise that people are beginning their holidays and this may not be the time to introduce lots of different elements all at once. August or September may be a good time.
All good wishes,
The Coronavirus Task Group
(Bishop Christopher, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, the Venerable Alastair Cutting, Ruth Martin and Sophia Jones)