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, Licensed Lay Workers, Churchwardens, Lay Chairs, PCC Secretaries, and the members of the Bishop’s Council of Diocesan Trustees.

Dear Colleagues,

We said that we would be in touch with you if any major alteration to guidance with respect to Covid-19 was given.  We would therefore like to draw your attention to the fact that the law changes with respect to face coverings in places of worship on Saturday 8th August: tomorrow.  The Church of England has updated its guidance to assist us all with this legal change.  At the time of writing, the government has still not issued its documentation in final form and we would normally wait until we have received this before contacting you.  However, as the law changes tomorrow, we feel it important to share with you the guidance that the Church of England has published, even though it is just possible that it will have to be amended once the government does make its own wording public.  

Here is the link to the appropriate documents on the Church of England website: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches

As the guidance relating to face coverings has wide impact, the Church of England has updated the following documents:  Face coverings; Baptisms; Weddings; Funerals; Holy Communion; Confirmation Services; Ordinations and Consecrations; Conducting Public Worship; Individual Private Prayer; Opening Cathedral and Church Buildings to the Public; Test and Trace and Risk assessment template.  We recommend that you consider each in turn, with respect to your particular context, perhaps starting with the Parish Risk Assessment Template.

In essence, it is now clear that face coverings must be worn by law in places of worship.  Some individuals and groups are validly exempt, as they also are in other indoor settings.  The person who is leading worship and those who are assisting do not always need to wear a covering, although one should always be worn if physical distancing cannot be maintained and if one is distributing consecrated bread and wine during a communion service.  Certain exemptions are also permitted during weddings, but as you will see, these are quite limited.

We do recognise that the time between the publishing of the guidance and the legal requirement to comply is extremely short, and we empathise with everyone as, together, we need to adjust our practice.  We have noticed over the last few weeks that in many settings people are adapting well to these changed times.  Signage seems to have helped in shops, so a simple notice may be equally effective in our church buildings – but we do recognise that we all need to continue to adapt and that this is likely to be easier in some settings and contexts than others.

Thank you, again, for your professionalism, pastoral sensitivity and consideration for others as together we continue to respond to the challenges of Covid-19.  Please remember to keep yourself as safe as possible as you focus also on others.

With our very best wishes and our continued 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