As we enter the 10th week of Lockdown, we are just beginning to ease up on some of the restrictions, but church life will not be the same for several months to come.
We know now that we won’t be entering our buildings except by myself or wardens for at least another month and then we will only be opening for private prayer in the beginning of July, and this at the moment is only a possibility and not set in stone
How we do church and what we do as a church has been challenged beyond belief with the outbreak of the corona virus as we have moved online for some things and have phoned or spoken to some of you and others we are just hoping you are keeping the faith.
Church however does begin at home, for it here we are primarily nurtured and cared for. It is here we learn much about the world around us and here we can comforted and protected too. If we have a solid home life it is the place we can launch ourselves into the world with confidence and trust that whatever happens home will be there for us.
Our church too should be a well of love that we feel we can reach out into the world around us confident of what is there for us to lean on when needed. Church too is a place where we can find comfort, and protection, where we can find inspiration, and nurture and energy. So I hope that you can find all these things in church as we enter a new phase in our life together and that we can look forward to meeting once more in the flesh some time soon.
Returning to Church
The House of Bishops has identified a three-stage process:
Stage 1, clergy may enter otherwise locked churches for prayer and worship (which can now be done behind locked doors).
It may well be that Sunday services are “live streamed” from inside the church using this facility. See the diary page for details
Stage 2, when government restrictions are eased, the House of Bishops will permit churches to be open for private prayer. This is unlikely to be before Saturday 4 July but planning for this second stage should begin with the PCC providing a risk assessment for the activity that will keep everyone safe.
The PCC have been advised to particularly prioritise spatial/social distancing. Make sure that people only enter the part of the building they need to enter. Clean necessary (touched) services on the way in and the way out. Leave time, ideally 3 days (72 hours), between different people accessing the building.
Specifically the National Guidance currently is that:
for the purposes of Track & Trace, records should be kept of who entered the building and when;
good hygiene is maintained with high alcohol hand sanitiser at entrances; liquid soap and paper towels or electrical dryers are used for washing; and touched surfaces are properly clean especially on entering and leaving;
2m social distancing is maintained.
So although at the time of writing the PCC had not met and therefore we cannot be specific about what the changes will be, we can be certain that access to the church, in the first instance for private prayer, will require changes to our usual ways of doing things, maybe even queuing outside church, just to keep everyone safe.
Stage 3, in the longer term when government permits, we will begin to open churches again for carefully regulated public worship, within the government guidelines. It is anticipated that churches will proceed at different rates as and when they are confident to do and so as safely as possible.
This will require a further PCC risk assessment looking at how more people can safely use the church together. Specific plans at the moment are not possible, as we do not know; whether there will be a limit on the total number of people attending; whether Communion will be authorised; or whether hymn singing will be allowed.
It is likely that many of the safety features put in place for stage 2 will remain.
Here we share a number of other measures, currently in the guidance, that may have to be implemented.
Do not share Bibles, prayer books etc. This includes lending libraries, Parish Magazines etc. Each person should bring their own books, order of service and take them home with them.
If you are using candles then take care not to light them immediately after using hand sanitiser gel, especially if this has alcohol in it. Wait a full minute after applying gel, then wipe your hands with a disposable tissue.
Remove holy water from stoups and do not make use of these at present.
Surfaces and door fixtures; light switches etc. must be frequently sanitised.
None of the above should be taken as “written in stone” as the restrictions change week by week and at the time of writing the PCC had made no definitive decisions as to what measures to adopt.
To all licensed & PTO clergy, Deanery Lay Chairs and Churchwardens
The Archdeacons have asked that we send you all the latest guidance for parishes from the Church of England on dealing with the Coronavirus (COVID-19). https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches
There is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section at the bottom of the website, including a section on ‘What Churches should do at this stage’ which covers some of the issues that have been raised within the Diocese.
This updated guidance specifically includes:
- Additional information for circumstances where it may be necessary to withdraw the Common Cup.
- A new element to FAQs specifically dealing with a scenario in which someone in the congregation is diagnosed.
- A new page providing information specific to clergy, other ministers and leadership teams.
https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-parishes/coronavirus-covid-19-additional. This includes advice both for the situation as it currently stands, and also should the situation progress with increased outbreaks.
Please continue to review the website as the guidance is being regularly updated.
Where there are particular local concerns or developments, please contact your Archdeacon.
With every good wish,
Diocesan Communications Officer
4 Chapel Court
Borough High Street
London SE1 1HW
Tel: 020 7939 9437
Mob: 07949 679401