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 appreciate that as we move towards the possibility of re-opening our church buildings for public worship this weekend you will have already received a large amount of information from different sources at different times, which needs to be read, digested and interpreted locally for your specific context. As we said earlier in the week, the guidance is permissive rather than prescriptive, it does need to be read carefully and interpreted for your context with the key focus being safety and sustainability in any decisions.  

To help you with this, there is a link at the end of this email to the latest updated advice documents we believe you need be aware of. These are;

  • Conducting public worship - version 1.1
  • Legal questions on conducting public worship - version 1
  • Opening cathedral and church buildings to the public - version 1
  • Holy Communion - version 3
  • Baptisms -version 2, Weddings - version 3, Confirmation - version 2, and Funerals - version 3
  • Individual private prayer - version 3
  • Churchyards - version 2
  • Risk Assessment template which is required for each place of worship - version 4 

There are also resources in the Coronavirus (Covid-19) Documents section of the Church of England website about mental health and well-being that could be useful to you, together with downloadable and digital resources for worship.  You will find a separate suite of documents on the Safeguarding and Coronavirus page.

The document 'Opening cathedral and church buildings to the public' addresses the question of keeping a record of who attends church buildings. This is in line with other government guidance. There is the suggestion that a temporary record is kept for 21 days to be able to provide data if it was needed for contact tracing and the document makes suggestions about how this can be done.  

The guidance does make it clear that safety is the first consideration in coming to a decision about when to re-open, and the risk assessment template is the basis on which to make those decisions about that. The second consideration we would encourage you to make, where you are have responsibility for more than one building, is to have due regard to what you believe is sustainable for you now, as we move into the summer, and what might be sustainable beyond that as we look towards Autumn. - The need for clergy and ministers to take holiday is part of this consideration and we absolutely support the fact that everyone needs opportunity for rest and recreation.

With regard the law, while our canons gave way to statute law under the lockdown legislation, with the restoration of the possibility that churches can be opened for worship, we do need to take notice of the canons again.  As the document ‘legal questions on conducting public worship’ makes clear Canons B11 and B14 expect services to be held in at least one church in a benefice.   We therefore feel it important to share our more general thoughts with you:

  • we do recognise the challenge of maintaining a form of online worship at the same time as churches are beginning to open but think that this may well help in the longer perspective, so urge you to do this if you are at all able and especially if you have increased your online presence during lockdown.  We are actively looking at how we might better resource the diocese and its ministers, including ourselves, in digital capability.
  • our hope is that there would be a church building able to open for a service in each benefice by the start of August, but we do recognise the challenge that this might involve in some places.
  • we want to support you as you take local decisions about churches being open for worship or currently remaining closed and therefore do not expect you will need to consult us formally on particular cases until the beginning of September.

Should you have any matters you wish to clarify please contact your archdeacon and you may also wish to check to FAQs section on the Church of England website.

We know that whatever decisions you come to about re-opening for worship are unlikely to please everyone, so to enable us best to support you we will, over time, seek to build up a picture of what is happening across the diocese.  We will not rush to do this as we do not wish to add to immediate burdens, but we do value being kept up to date and would like to thank everyone who has shared with us over the last few weeks.  Wise, proportionate, collaborative decision-making is happening across our region and we are so grateful to you for all that you are doing as God's people together at this time.

You are all very much in our prayers as the new guidance comes into force from this weekend and we are immensely grateful to you for your prayers for us in our ministry.

We would also ask to pray for those being licensed tomorrow as lay workers. The service will be available later in the day to watch on social media and the diocesan website. 

With our gratitude for your ministry at this time and 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

 

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