Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today the Mayor of London declared a major incident across the capital because COVID infections are now ‘out of control’ and our NHS hospitals are operating at critical capacity. The current situation across London is very serious. I am in close contact with the Bishops of London and Rochester and we are each writing to our clergy this evening as well as working together with other colleagues in reviewing our arrangements thoroughly.

As I mentioned in the last Coronavirus Task Group bulletin, only three days ago, this is a time of high anxiety. The national guidance for keeping places of worship open during lockdown remains the same across England. However, as the situation has developed, some Council Leaders are currently requesting that faith communities consider voluntary closure.

A significant number of parishes have now decided to restrict worship to online streaming or pre-recording for the time being, while remaining open within the guidance for occasional offices. As I have said you will be supported in the decisions you make. If you wish to stay open for worship, a refreshed risk assessment is crucial. Please also consider what additional mitigating actions may be taken to further reduce any risk of transmission in your context.

Attached is a letter from Commander Roper of the Metropolitan Police clearly setting out the guidance and calling on all our support to observe the lockdown rules. A statement explaining the public health reasoning behind the declaration of the major incident and why the call to tighten restrictions was made will be forthcoming from Professor Kevin Fenton, the London Regional Director of Public Health England, and the Mayor.

The Coronavirus Task Group will meet on Tuesday and our guidance and advice will be kept under close review.

As you respond to the emerging situation in your setting, please do not hesitate to seek advice from your Bishops, your Archdeacon, your Area Dean or the Diocesan staff. Perhaps most importantly, please pray for the well-being of people across London and for our civic and community leaders as they seek to make good decisions.  And pray especially for our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers and all others who, whether personally or professionally, are the most affected by this continuing pandemic.

Be assured of my continued prayers, support and encouragement as we journey together through these challenges, the Lord being our helper,

The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun
The Bishop of Southwark