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 

In the past two days we have begun to receive formal guidance documents from both the government and the national church (including updates of already existing documents). We have attached the full list of what is now available to this email. There is also a link to the FAQs section which is constantly updated on the national church website.

Yesterday we referred to the concept of decision-making with attention to 'pastoral caution for all'. This remains our clear view.  All of the guidance, the full suite of which is not yet released, asks a great deal of parishes, benefices, and of clergy and their ministerial colleagues. Please, therefore, make yourself aware of the complexities involved as you take your decisions.  Please note, especially, that the Ministry for Houses, Communities and Local Government has published 'guidance for the safe use of places of worship' while the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published 'guidance on working safely at heritage locations', which covers 'churches and cathedrals which welcome visitors or tourists'. Some of our church buildings may be in both of these categories, while others, which house community facilities, may also come under a third set of 'guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities'.  The links to all three sets of information are included with this message.

As we consider 'pastoral caution for all', we therefore also again counsel that consideration is given to the longer term picture:  which congregations (or collections of congregations) have the strength in depth to maintain opening requirements over time, and which church buildings are best suited and situated to provide all that is needed for the months and years ahead? 

We are very mindful of the huge amount of practical work already done in parishes to ready the buildings for reopening.  Thank you! What remains to be done now as we enact all of this preparation is careful continuous decision making that reflects the latest guidance, added to careful and reflective consideration of the impact on us all of fulfilling quite onerous new expectations for a long time. We suggest that we will best serve the spiritual needs of God's people by not exhausting ourselves or our volunteers, if at all possible.  A second theme or task that we would therefore like to propose alongside 'pastoral caution for all' is thus to do with the management of expectations.  We believe that such successful management is likely to be the key to flourishing for us all in the months ahead. 

One tool, that we have previously mentioned, and that might help with managing expectations, is 'risk assessment'.  A risk assessment is required for each worship space. If it is drawn up by clergy and other parish leaders in a collaborative way, it will have already begun the communication process that is at the heart of managing expectations. The risk assessment may need to be referred to and updated as local circumstances change - for example if there is a change in the number of people who are able to volunteer, or if a local 'lock down' should occur.  If at all possible, risk assessments should be made available on local church websites or by other means as they will contain helpful information about the attendance capacity of buildings.  The revised Church of England risk assessment tool is now available (the link is below).  Please, however, see this not as an end in itself but as a helpful tool to aid the navigation of all that we are experiencing at the moment.  As we have also previously said, churches can open from this weekend, rather than by this weekend.

We are very mindful that the flow of guidance is likely to continue for some time, and that all of us will need to digest its implications for our worship, our service and our mission. We are committed to doing this with you and alongside you.

Once again, with our thanks for your ministry and service in this diocese

Resources

Attached to this email are the following updated documents: 

There is further guidance on communion and other services expected later today which will be available on the website 

The following is a link to the Church of England website that will include new guidance as it is released later today in the documents section, there is also the FAQs section through this link. 

https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches

This message comes with our prayers,

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