Bulletin no.1 - Monday 23 March
8 months, 1 week ago
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The majority of this bulletin was written before the Prime Minister’s statement this evening. We will of course be in touch again tomorrow as a result of the announcements that he has made but we thought it prudent to send out where we are tonight, even if things will have changed again tomorrow. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all at this time.
In the coming weeks we will continue to offer information and help to the clergy and lay leaders of our churches as they seek to serve their parishes. We hope to be able to do this in two ways:
- through further pastoral letters from Bishop Christopher on behalf of the Coronavirus Task Group
- email bulletins from the whole group which will be more practical in content and seek to answer some of the most frequently asked questions from our clergy and others. We will then place these onto the website so that they can be easily referenced.
This email is the first such bulletin and further to the email from Bishop Christopher yesterday we are writing with as promised with some and further information.
As you are likely to have seen the action that the Bishops of London, Southwark, Rochester and Chelmsford took yesterday in closing all churches in the London Boroughs has now been extended to the whole of the country. That means that all churches in the Diocese must now close. This is a cause of great sadness but a necessary step in fighting the spread of the coronavirus. Please however take note of the specific uses that can be continued. This is so important in our work to care for the most vulnerable in our society.
We have been asked questions about:
We are attaching some guidelines from our Archdeacons concerning the use of our church buildings now that they are shut. We hope that that this will help to clarify the current situation concerning night shelters, foodbanks and other groups that use our buildings to meet.
- Key workers
As you may have heard “religious staff” have been included in the list of key workers, for whom some childcare provision may be able to be made by schools and nurseries. We need to be judicious in taking advantage of this provision, to limit cross-infection in schools, and not to overburden the system. In practice the majority of Clergy with children will be able to care for them at home. If, however (a) school or nursery provision is the only way you can provide childcare AND (b) based on the demands of your specific role this is necessary to the continuation of an essential public service, then please communicate this to your Area Bishop (or, in Woolwich, to +Christopher), with a rationale. After consideration the Bishop concerned is able to send you a PDF of a “To Whom it May Concern” letter confirming your status, which you may then use to make arrangements with the school or nursery concerned.
[Note: it will be of more service to Clergy if the letter is signed by a Bishop, simply because this is the Office that people dealing with these requests in the secular world are most likely to recognise as authoritative]
- Funeral Fees
We have been asked if these can be reduced and we have signposted this question to Church House, Westminster as this must be a decision made for the whole church and applied across all Dioceses. When we have heard back concerning this issue, we will let you know.
- Celebrating the Eucharist
We have been asked if a priest can celebrate alone. As you will be aware it is standard Anglican practice to have at least one respondent for a Eucharistic celebration. However, in these exceptional circumstances Bishop Christopher is prepared to permit priests to say the Eucharist alone. If you are able to have someone with you, please make sure that you observe all the prescribed precautions and consider leaving the host on the altar for the person to come and consume rather than distributing it.
- Notice for church doors
As promised, we are attaching a notice for you to put on the door of your church during this unprecedented time.
- Annual Meetings, Elections etc in 2020
We have decided to extend the timelines for parishioners to choose churchwardens and for APCMs to be held (and the business transacted there including the election of laity to the Deanery Synod) to 31 October. Details are in the attached instrument signed by Bishop Christopher which sets out all the consequential timelines through to the end of January 2021. We realise there will be many queries about this and there will be a separate letter coming from the Diocesan Secretary and Archdeacons as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will be sending the notification to PCC Secretaries and Deanery Secretaries in the next day or two.
- Streaming of services
We have been receiving very positive feedback from those who have watched services which have been streamed from our churches and it is so good to know that so many are working on ways of ensuring that, whilst our churches are closed, our parishioners can still be involved in worship virtually.
Thank you so much for doing this and do please continue to stream services whereever you can. As our world is turned upside down it is important that we find ever new and exciting ways to be the church in our changing world.
We will be in touch again with answers to your questions as they arise.
The worship of the church continues and is taken forward by us all.
We ask you to take good care of yourselves, to stay at home wherever possible and to share any concerns or needs with colleagues including your Area Dean, Archdeacon and Bishops.