A message of encouragement from Bishop Christopher

Bishop Christopher shared a message with the Diocese on 5 January 2021, as the UK went back into lockdown. He began: 'With Coronavirus cases rising across the country and a new, more transmissible UK variant, we have now entered a third national lockdown which I realise is a very difficult time across South London and East Surrey as well as for each of us personally.'

Read the full text by clicking the link below.

A letter from Bishop Christopher, 5 January 2021

‘With Coronavirus cases rising across the country and a new, more transmissible UK variant, we have now entered a third national lockdown which I realise is a very difficult time across South London and East Surrey as well as for each of us personally. Given the large number of major hospitals in the Diocese – all under great pressure – please pray for our hospitals at this testing time, for staff and patients. We must hope fervently that the vaccination programmes will soon begin to make a difference for the better.

‘We have a duty to consider the needs of the whole community, particularly the most vulnerable and those who are isolated – the most vulnerable in our communities must shield and we must all stay at home wherever possible. Our churches can remain open for public worship and private prayer but there may be very good reasons in particular local and personal contexts to move solely to online worship until the numbers of infections reduce significantly – in the Borough of Lambeth today, for instance, the number of COVID cases is twice the national average. We need to be cautious and careful in the decisions we are making.

‘It is at this time of high anxiety and stress that we need to respect the considered decisions that are being – and indeed can only be – made locally unless public worship is restricted again legally. You will be fully supported in the decisions you make and there is advice and guidance on the appropriate process for making these decisions. If clergy are feeling in need of the support of their Area Dean, or Archdeacon, or indeed Bishop, concerning the decisions they are taking and the pressure they might be feeling they should be in touch and that support is guaranteed.

‘I ask that we all please speak well of, and demonstrate our respect for, each other as we each take our share of responsibility for ensuring the safety and well-being of the whole community, as well as our nearest and dearest and of course ourselves. Public Health England has so far only identified 47 cases nationally of church-related transmission so I want to thank our parishes for the magnificent efforts that have been made to protect and safeguard those coming to church to worship in person. Moreover, the Government has recognised the importance of public worship for the spiritual, physical, and mental health and well-being of our people.

‘The Bishops are grateful for the creative ways in which patterns of worship have been sustained though often modified in recent months. Churches across the Diocese are reaching different decisions according to their own contexts and this is entirely appropriate, good, and proper. There are churches that plan to remain open. If so, please be reminded that you must be rigorous in your risk assessment, before during and after services and private prayer. Others will close to public worship but offer limited access for private prayer, with recorded or streamed live services, and perhaps a midweek celebration of the Eucharist which will attract smaller numbers. Others will want to offer a mixed-mode approach with a reduced pattern of Sunday and in some cases daily public worship.

‘As we journey through these further challenges of the pandemic – with a situation that is changing and being constantly reassessed almost daily – please be sure of my support and encouragement together with my prayers and blessing for you all.’

The Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark

Where to get help

You can find the most recent COVID-19 guidance from the National Church here:

Guidance and resources for taking your church online, as well as a list of churches currently using live-streaming or YouTube, are available here:

Taking your church online

The latest NHS advice is available here:

NHS COVID-19 guidance

Parishes should make contact with their Area Dean or Archdeacon if they have any concerns. They can also e-mail the Coronavirus Task Group here: [email protected]

Vaccination campaign

Black clergy in the Diocese of Southwark have been spearheading a campaign to overcome reluctance among the BAME community to being vaccinated. Bishop Karowei, a former GP and hospital doctor, has been vocal in his support. Together with Rosemarie Mallett, Archdeacon of Croydon, he has released a video urging the Black community to accept the vaccine.

More news about how people in our parishes have been supporting the vaccination effort can be found on The Bridge web page.

Coronavirus Task Group communications

The Diocese's Coronavirus Task Group and Archdeacons send regular communications to clergy and senior parish officers with advice, information and links to assistance relating to COVID-19 issues. Recent CTG guidance is available via the links below.

Coronavirus Task Group Bulletins

Archdeacons' letters

Other COVID communications

The South London Church Fund and Southwark Diocese Board of Finance is a company limited by guarantee (No. 236594).
Registered Office: Trinity House, 4 Chapel Court, Borough High Street, London SE1 1HW. Registered Charity: (No. 249678).

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