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Bulletin no.10 - Friday 8 May

6 months, 3 weeks ago

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1.    Returning to our churches

On Wednesday 6 May Bishop Christopher issued a Pastoral Letter to his clergy giving them permission, should they feel it appropriate, to return to their churches to stream/pre-record services for their communities as well as to say prayers.  He is very glad of this development but also made it clear that he did not expect everyone to return to their churches immediately saying that he knew that some would not yet re-open for a number of reasons.  Some clergy would continue to be shielding and some would want to work through pre-arranged plans first. The CTG wants to underline that this is part of a three stage plan outlined by the House of Bishops. We are at Stage 1. Stage 2 (the opening of churches for private prayer) and Stage 3 (carefully regulated public worship) will depend on the progressive lifting of restrictions along with public health and safety considerations, but planning for these further stages should begin now. 

Bishop Christopher wrote in his Pastoral Letter:
‘There is, of course, no obligation to do this immediately and there may indeed be very good reasons for not doing so at once. There should be careful planning and proper consideration given to all aspects of returning to the church building. Please do not rush things or abandon existing plans for streaming etc as it is important to continue to offer pastoral care and support to the online communities which have been growing.  I know, for example, that the Cathedral is likely to want to plan for this to happen from Ascension Day. I am not necessarily expecting uniformity of practice in this matter; but please know of my confidence in the decisions you will want to make in consultation with your partners in the Gospel.  Like everyone else, we are having to live with uncertainty, and we do not know for certain when or how we will return to more familiar patterns of worship.   We may have to live with different rules of engagement for a long time to come which will shape daily life, including church life, profoundly.  This will work for good if we take hold intentionally of some of the new ways that the pandemic has led us to explore’

In light of the House of Bishop's revised guidelines on the use of our churches Bishop Christopher, with his Area Bishops, is pleased to offer this advice and information to the clergy and lay ministers of the Diocese:

  • clergy are allowed to enter their churches in order to stream services
  • one other person may go with them if necessary, to help with music or with the streaming observing social distancing.  Clergy may be accompanied by members of their household if they are assisting. 
  • the church remains closed for public worship and, at this stage, for private prayer for others
  • the appointed person may enter the church building for any or all of the following (i) pray the Daily Office and/or celebrate the Eucharist on behalf of the community they serve, (ii) live stream or pre-record worship, (iii) ring one bell to mark prayers being said or mark events (e.g. Clap for Carers, VE day anniversary), (iv) check the fabric of the building
  • services which have been happening at home can now, once a day, be streamed from the church but everyone is encouraged to make careful plans for this
    • take care to observe social distancing and work out appropriate cleansing arrangements
    • do not lose the current practices that you have established during this period as it is likely to be some time before we can more move to the further stages envisaged by the House of Bishops
    • clergy are encouraged to take account of the virtual congregations that have been growing
    • it is good to think about the most appropriate way to stream your services from churches as it might be that you will need to make some changes from the way in which you have been doing it at home as lighting and sound qualities may be different.  Please do be in touch with us if you would like some help with this
  • Clergy and lay leaders, especially those with underlying health problems, or who are shielding people in their household with such problems, should in all cases observe health advice and continue to exclude themselves where advised to do so.

Please do contact your Archdeacon if you have any questions or queries

  1. Insurance

We have been asked if Ecclesiastical is likely to consider a payment holiday for our churches during this time and for concerning loss of income as a result of the lockdown.

The Archdeacons have been in touch with Ecclesiastical and they say with regards to a payment holiday:

‘As there is no asset (as in a mortgage) against which  a parish would, in effect, be borrowing they can’t offer this facility, as they would have no means to enforce it if it wasn’t repaid later.  But they stress that they want to be as helpful as possible and say that any church experiencing cash flow difficulties should contact their underwriter as there are other ways the EIG can help churches, for instance by revisiting their insurance cover.’

In terms of income protection, they say:
‘That like the rest of the industry, there is no cover for Covid 19 related financial losses.’ 

They add:

‘The Government recognises that its own actions to save lives and beat the virus have resulted in sudden and acute difficulties for businesses large and small. It has announced several very substantial initiatives to help them overcome these, a number of which may apply to your business. We would encourage our policyholders to take full advantage of these where they can. These include loans on advantageous terms, cash grants, and employment protection measures. We recommend checking the Government website for more details: http://www.gov.uk/coronavirus’.

  1. Foodbanks

This is a challenging time for many in our communities and it is so important that our local Foodbanks are as resourced as possible to serve the needs of our communities.   So please do donate food if you can or, if it is easier for you, please consider making a financial donation so that the foodbanks can purchase what they need for their clients.  Most foodbanks now have a donate button on their front page so do look on your local Foodbanks website to see what they need and how you might help.  Thank you. 

If there are any in your congregation or communities who are in particular need at this time do please direct them to your nearest Foodbank and do look at the Food Access Response Document on the Diocesan website at https://southwark.anglican.org/coronavirus/food-access/

  1. Encouraging Giving

Our Head of Giving, Gabby Parikh, has gathered some materials on giving during the lockdown and online giving.  There is an offer from SumUp which runs until the end of May. Do have a look at it and see if it would be helpful to you. The materials are attached to this Bulletin.

  1. Faith at Home

The Church of England has released some material to help families to explore their Faith at Home.  It can be found at: www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/faith-home
There is also a range of materials on our Diocesan website at: https://southwark.anglican.org/cypmm/

  1. VE Day

At Noon today a VE Day service will be broadcast on the Diocesan and Cathedral YouTube and  Facebook channels.  You can find links to them on the Diocesan website Churchonline page: https://southwark.anglican.org/churchonline/
The collage of VE Day photographs which forms part of the service will be available to view online afterwards on the Cathedral and Diocesan YouTube channels. 

With our best wishes to you at this time.

The Coronavirus Task Group

(Bishop Christopher, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, the Venerable Alastair Cutting, Ruth Martin and the Revd Canon Wendy Robins)