This email communication has been sent to all licensed Active Clergy, clergy who hold the bishop's Permission to Officiate, Retired Clergy, Readers, Authorised Lay Ministers, Churchwardens, Lay Chairs, PCC Secretaries, and the members of the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees.

Dear colleagues 

We write to you mindful of the pictures in the national media of people flocking to beach and coastal resorts. There was a rush, and an energy, for a sense of normality - to do what people are used to doing. We appreciate that you may also have experienced a rush this week with people seeking a return to public worship and requests for occasional offices. We want to support you as much as possible as, together, we all have to handle the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.   

Alongside the pictures of the beaches and the rush for things to resume there have also been warning voices. These voices are a good reminder to us and to those who are expecting us to make decisions at the moment. The virus is still very active and for some considerable time yet to come we must learn to co-exist with it as part of everyday life: in our decision making, our praying, our serving of others, our worshipping. In our nation, no community or city is free of the virus and our decision making needs to reflect this.  

It is therefore entirely to be expected that it may take longer to make decisions, and then to implement them, than in the past, or than many would like now. We suggest to you that key factors in your decision making about re-opening of churches for worship are safety and sustainability.  We will not be returning to 'normal' for many months.  Indeed, we may never return to the 'old normal' and will therefore need to take decisions and steps now that enable us to move well to the 'new normal', as it emerges.   Moreover, our decisions now will help to shape this 'new normal'.  In practical terms, this will probably mean a phased opening of some churches or some openings delayed for now while decisions are made about whether it is safe and sustainable to be able to open the doors. These are hard decisions. 

The beach pictures of yesterday, then, are a reminder that not everything can happen at once. Most significantly, at the moment we are unable to make fully informed decisions as we still do not have all the information. 

The national church is still waiting for the government guidance. Once that is received the national church will then be able to issue updated guidance on public worship, weddings, baptisms, funerals, communion, confirmation and general access to buildings. There will also be a risk assessment template to assist in decision making. We hope to receive those documents early next week will and get them to you with some local advice as soon as we can. 

Please be assured that we do realise how frustrating it is to again be waiting for critical  information as you field inquiries about worship and services such as weddings and baptisms. We appreciate you will have a desire from people for there to be a sense of normal. However, we do not have the information to be able to say 'yes' to people in all cases.  Our sense is that many may not fully understand all that needs to be done in order to ensure their safety and are, quite naturally, responding to the 'headline' that 'churches are open again'.  We recognise the burden of having to make multiple explanations, but feel that attempts to do so - in which we will support you as well as we can - are probably the necessary first step in many cases.

The bottom line: we will support you in delaying any opening to give you time to think through the guidance, once it arrives, and how it applies in your context so you can ensure  the safety of the congregation, the community and very importantly your own safety. In doing so please consider any vulnerability you may have or members of your family may have. Your safety - alongside your resilience - is something we are very concerned about. 

You will find attached to this email (please note this is not attached to this story) a matrix about decision making during and after a time of crisis. This is simply an offering that may help you to think through (with colleagues and PCCs) what practices may shape your activity now and in the months ahead. We intend to follow this up with further resources, but thought it might be helpful to share it with you now - it comes from colleagues in the NHS.

You are doing a wonderful job and your response throughout the crisis has been extraordinary.  We are all tired, all in need of rest, all facing 'overload' of many different types.  We realise that this is likely to be an extraordinarily pressured weekend.  Please know our deep appreciation for all that you do at this time and for those who support you and are alongside you. We will be in touch again early next week and in the meantime, may we all find some consolation and strength in the Lord.

With our ongoing appreciation for your ministry,

Bishop David
The Right Reverend Dr David Court
Bishop of Grimsby
Acting Bishop of Lincoln

and

Bishop Nicholas
The Right Reverend Dr Nicholas Chamberlain
Bishop of Grantham