Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance and Resources For Churches
Last Updated 27/03/20
Please see below updates of important directives and guidance in this fast moving Crisis. We trust that these new arrangements will be part of the support for all those serving Jesus Christ in church and society.
Your three key sources of up-to-date advice, guides and instructions:
Archdeacons Update on the latest government guidance
Thanks to all who are managing the decisions to keep our buildings closed for worship, and for all but absolutely essential purposes we understand how tough that is.
As regards the recent request from the Archdeacons to keep a log of visits, please keep that locally till the end of the crisis and them forward it to the Archdeacon at that point. We did not intend to add to your workload sending separate emails every time a visit is made.
You may also have seen that recent directions from the government seem to imply churches can be open for streaming and funerals. Please note at present that has not been agreed with the House of Bishops so our current advice, ‘stay home and stay closed’, is still our policy. If this changes we will be the first to let you know.
Please Note: to ensure a ‘one-stop’ place of information, the below comprises updated recommendations and directives from the Church of England in bold text, with additional context from Church of England Birmingham in italic.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are now advising, in line with Government advice, that all public worship in person be paused until further notice.
Church buildings should now be closed entirely. As the national Church of England guidance and Government recommendations make clear, our normal pattern of public worship cannot continue for the time being, and parishes are encouraged to find ways of praying, and supporting one another, through phone calls, social media and links to wider resources. Easily accessible resources are provided through the Church of England Birmingham channels – a selection are also available on the Church of England website.
With the closure of church buildings, provision should be made for Funeral Services to be held only at Crematoria and the graveside. Clergy and Ministers are asked to liaise closely with Funeral Directors, in the circumstances of each case, and ensure that the few necessary attendees are at no time closer than 2 metres to anyone, except those with whom they live. Particular attention will need to be given to arrangements for entering and leaving the Crematorium, and when there is a burial, for mourners at the graveside. New liturgical material will be made available shortly.
If the new government advice is causing severe and immediate pastoral difficulty, please contact the Archdeacons or the Bishops.
If you are organising the funeral of a loved one, we are acutely aware of what a difficult time this will be. We will do our best to explain any changes or delays which may be an inevitable consequence of the current restrictions – for example, to the burial of ashes – but we are here to support you and to ensure a Christian funeral and burial can still be provided.
Weddings and Baptisms
With the closure of church buildings, weddings can no longer take place within them. Neither is it permitted for a wedding to take place at another location or virtually. Wedding services should be postponed.
Although we are rightly restrained from normal occasional offices, in cases of extreme emergency (i.e. imminent death) please contact your Bishop or Archdeacon immediately for guidance before proceeding.
Other use of churches and halls
As we are not using our church buildings for our normal gatherings for worship, hire to other groups or denominations must, logically, also be suspended. However, where a church or hall is used as a base for social care such as a food bank, it will be important to arrange continued access.
We are encouraging churches to find creative ways of staying in touch with those who are isolated and vulnerable and to give them spiritual support and also practical support as far as possible. We have published a list of digital and print resources and we are also developing new content.
We have a particular duty of care towards those who are vulnerable because of their health conditions, or who are aged over 70. We don’t want any sense of duty or burden of expectation to prevent them from heeding any Government recommendations about self-isolation.
Incumbents or, where there is a vacancy, Area Deans are asked to seek cover for such services or other essential tasks, and to contact the Archdeacon in case of difficulty. It would be wise for churches to consider now what assistance they may need to comply with this, and to channel their requests through the Area Dean.
In the light of the Government’s guidance, churches should not hold face-to-face meetings but rather online or via phone. The national Legal Office has written to every Diocesan Registrar and Diocesan Secretary with advice on how to suspend the legal requirements to hold these meetings.
PCC business can be conducted by correspondence under the 2020 Church Representation Rules, which also permit APCMs to be held up to 31st May. Detailed guidance about Annual Meetings, including deanery synod elections is expected nationally, but in the meantime, these meetings should be postponed. Other meetings should take place online or over the phone.
Longer term provision for the pastoral care of those self-isolating for a considerable length of time will be discussed; at present, phone calls, delivery of letters, cards and essential items and social media contact where possible are all encouraged.
Remaining compliant with safeguarding and GDPR requirements is, of course, a key aspect of good pastoral care in these very unusual times.
We are encouraging church people to do everything they can to support food banks, so they do not need to close.
WHAT IF THERE IS NO RUNNING WATER, OR WE CAN'T GET HOLD OF HAND-SANITISER?
If neither is available, use thermos flasks, individual bowls, and paper towels which should be thrown away immediately after use. Please note that wet wipes are not a suitable alternative, as they are not effective in killing or removing viruses.
Church of England Schools
All schools, including Church of England schools, will continue to follow the latest Government advice.
In line with the suspension of Ofsted inspections, SIAMS (Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools) has also been suspended until further notice.