Message from the Coronovirus Task Group 🗓
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Keeping our churches as safe as possible
Since the government issued guidance that churches could re-open for public worship the Coronavirus Task group has been awaiting the guidance from the Church of England’s Recovery Group which is chaired by the Bishop of London and of which Bishop Christopher is a part, in order to offer further guidance to those of you who are preparing to open your churches for public worship.
The guidance that has now been issued is attached here for reference and it can be found at https://www.churchofengland.
The Recovery Group have also issued revised advice on Weddings, Funerals, Baptisms, Holy Communion, Confirmation and Individual Private Prayer. We have attached PDFs of the revised documents about. They can all be found at https://www.churchofengland.
- Being able to open for public worship does not mean that you have to do so immediately
We want to stress once again that this guidance from both the Government and the Church of England gives us permission to both re-enter our buildings and to resume public worship but we know that it is not right for every church to do this immediately. Some of our parishes are planning to re-open for public worship this weekend (4 July) and others are leaving it for a further two or three weeks and some are not planning to open until September. These sorts of decision need to be made by the priest and people of each parish and no one should feel compelled to open sooner than it feels safe to do so. It is of vital importance to make our churches as safe as possible for all those entering our churches. Bishop Christopher has asked us to say that the Bishops of the Diocese encourage clergy to factor in the need to take annual leave and consider directing congregations to on-line alternatives should they decide to take their leave before re-opening for worship. The Archdeacons will be making available a series of on-line sermons which they hope will for this purpose be a useful resource for parishes during the summer.
- Being safe to re-open
We know that many churches have already been preparing for starting public worship and have begun to mark floors and put up signs concerning how many people can be at each service. The number of people able to attend each service will, of course, depend upon the size and layout of the individual church concerned. But it is essential that each church carries out the Risk Assessment attached before the church is opened for public worship. There are some changes in this version of the Risk Assessment to earlier ones and these mainly concern: the management of people and recording the details of those attending the church building (not mandatory).
Please fill out the Risk Assessment and keep it securely with other Risk Assessments that you have for your parish.
We thought that it would be good to mention one or two important points that it is very good to think about carefully:
· each church needs to ensure that spatial distancing is properly thought through so that everyone is aware of how best to socially distance in church in these new circumstances
· there are some pinch points and moments which deserve special attention such as how you will ensure social distancing as people arrive and leave the church
· as you may know the guidelines suggest that we need to keep a list of the names and contact details of all those who attend services. We would commend this to you and suggest that you work out carefully how you will do this as people should not share pens or write on the same lists. It is probably advisable for one person to have a pen and clipboard upon which to write people’s details. These should be safely stored and destroyed after 21 days.
· if your church is one in which there is a tradition of lighting votive candles it might be necessary to change the way in which this is done. Those who wish to light candles should be able to pick up one that has already been placed on a votive stand and light it from a nearby candle. There should not be the need to use a taper.
· some churches have recorded a video to show people what to expect when they return to church as things are likely to be very different to how people remember it.
The video need only be very short and can be made on your smart phone but it will help to reassure people that you have thought about things ready for the return. The Cathedral has produced one which can be found at: https://youtu.be/DJD-fIK7D_A
If you can’t make such a video please do make sure that the messages that you send out to tell members of your congregation that you are re-opening for public worship also reassures them that you have taken very careful precautions to make the church safe.
· it would also be good to consider whether you need to ticket your services and how best to do this. It might be that using Eventbrite is the best way but whatever way you do this do leave a few unticketed spaces for some of those who have not booked and simply turn up to get in.
- We’re Good to Go industry standard kite mark
We also want to commend to churches who often get visitors to consider applying for the Visit England ‘We’re good to go’ kite mark. The mark signifies that they are following the guidance correctly to re-open safely. The mark will be used across the industry.
- Music and singing
As you will have seen in the guidance we are still not allowed congregational singing in church. However, the guidance does allow for music which can be an organist or other instrumentalist. Additionally, if there is an organist then there can be a cantor or vocalist. But it is important to note that there cannot be an extra singer along side a guitarist who is also singing. The guidance is clear that only one person may sing.
Please do think carefully about what music you use in your services so that the music does not encourage people to join in as singing is expressly not allowed. Also we think it right to mention that – sad though it is – we cannot sing Happy Birthday to people during notices if that is our custom because in this instance the notices at the end of a service must be treated as part of the service and communal singing is not allowed.
- Multi use buildings and halls
The Government has issued some guidance on this and we are awaiting the Church of England’s clarification on the practical implications for churches especially those who have halls that are used by other churches.
As other guidance is issued by the Church of England we will send further bulletins which we hope will help to ensure that we can all work together to keep our churches as safe as possible as we begin the gradual process of re-opening them for public worship.
With our thanks for all that you do and our very best wishes,
The Coronavirus Task Group
(Bishop Christopher, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, the Venerable Alastair Cutting, Ruth Martin and the Revd Canon Wendy Robins)
Wendy S Robins
Director of Press and Communications
& Bishop’s Press Officer
4 Chapel Court
Borough High Street
London SE1 1HW
Tel: 0207 939 9436
Mob: 07831 694021
As a result of the coronavirus my colleagues and I are working from home until the restrictions are lifted. My office number is diverted to my mobile and we are still here to deal with emails and requests from our parishes.
The South London Church Fund & Southwark Diocesan Board of Finance, Trinity House, 4 Chapel Court, Borough High Street, London SE1 1HW.
Tel: 020 7939 9400/ fax: 020 7939 9468
A company limited by guarantee: Reg No. 236594 / Charity No. 249678
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