Thinking Anglicans

Funerals: are they too risky?

The Good Funeral Guide issued a call last Friday for ALL funeral services to cease for the time being. See their blog post Please, stop now. The whole article is worth a read.

…The decision to exempt funerals from the current ban on social gatherings was undoubtedly made for compassionate reasons, but the current lack of clear instruction and direction is leading to anguish and suffering beyond imagination.

By allowing funeral ceremonies to continue in some form or other, bereaved people – and all those supporting them – are genuinely risking their health and even their lives by gathering together to try and have a funeral like the ones we are used to, yet in most cases, grieving people are ending up with a funeral that has been pared down to something almost unrecognisable. Almost everything we are familiar with in a funeral ceremony has been stripped away by the attempt to slow the spread of Covid-19. What we are left with is worse than nothing…

The situation in the Church of England is fully reported today by the Church TimesFunerals in churches are too risky, say bishops.

…Though current government guidance states that funerals may continue to take place in church buildings, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and diocesan bishops, believe that this presents an unnecessary “layer of risk”, owing to the difficulty of cleaning churches.

In a letter to all C of E clergy last Friday, they state: “The medical, epidemiological, and public health advice we have received clearly indicates that this represents an additional layer of risk that we do not need to take. Cleaning a church building after a funeral is much harder to do than a crematorium chapel.

“Furthermore, the ability of a parish priest to control the number of mourners will always be compromised by the proper instincts to care for the bereaved at the moment of a funeral. Of course, this is costly, but we believe the cost is less likely to be in human lives. Consequently, we are continuing to ask clergy to conduct funerals at the graveside or in a crematorium chapel…”

Newly published resources for funerals

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Opinion – 28 March 2020

Mandy Ford ViaMedia.News Space, Time, Prayer and Cranmer

Steve Goddard Ship of Fools In praise of online church

Lorraine Cavanagh Church Times Companionship with God and others in the Covid-19 pandemic
“There are ways of belonging to a worshipping community at this time that do not rely on a broadband connection”

Andrew Davison Church Times When priest and people are apart
“The eucharist remains vital, even if offered behind closed doors”

Fergus Butler-Gallie The Critic Return of the Dance of Death
“Coronavirus may be sweeping the world but we’ve been here before”

55 Comments

Bishops reiterate their restrictions on use of church buildings – 2

This press release was published today. The letter from the bishops mentioned in it is published in the preceding article.

New reflection issued for people who cannot attend a funeral

Under strict rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Church of England funerals may now only happen at crematoria or at gravesides. Only immediate family members can attend – if a crematorium allows – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.

new resource issued by the Church of England gives advice for those who cannot attend on how to hold a short and simple reflection at home on the day of the funeral.

This includes a set of simple prayers and suggestions, including finding a place to sit quietly, finding a photograph of the person who has died, writing down special memories of them, and playing a piece of music with a connection to the person who has died. The Church of England has also provided an   online facility for people to light a virtual candle in memory of loved ones.

Rev Canon Dr Sandra Millar, Head of Welcome and Life Events for the Church of England, said: “It’s so difficult when you can’t go to a funeral, whether for family, friend or neighbour. You might have wanted to support a friend, or show respect, or you might want to say your last goodbye and know that your special person’s life has been honoured, prayers offered, and God’s love experienced.

“Many will not be able to do this now.  When this time of social distancing is over, there may well be a time to share memories with others, but for now people can find comfort from setting aside time at home for a simple reflection, lighting a candle on line or sharing a prayer card with someone else.  God can feel very close in those moments.”

The reflection has been published alongside services for funerals at crematoria and at gravesides in the light of the coronavirus restrictions, alongside advice for clergy.

Meanwhile the archbishops and bishops have written to clergy reaffirming their guidance on the closure of Church buildings to help reduce the spread of the virus.

The letter makes clear that while the Government rules currently permit church buildings to be used for funerals within strict limits, Church of England funerals nevertheless must only take place by a graveside or in a crematorium. They explain that medical advice clearly indicates that holding a funeral in a church in the current situation “represents an additional layer of risk” of transmission.

“Of course this is costly, but we believe the cost is less likely to be in human lives,” they write.

The bishops have also given serious consideration to their recent guidance preventing clergy entering churches to live stream an act of worship but concluded the restriction must stay in place.

“Not being able to use our church buildings is, of course, a huge loss to us all,” they write.

“We are aware that for many clergy it is hard not to be able to pray and worship in their church building; and for many lay people, not even being able to see worship going on in their church building is difficult.

“Streaming worship from home shows that we are alongside those who are having to self-isolate and those who are forgoing so many other things in their lives that they used to rely on.

“It also shows that we are facing up to the same restrictions as them and doing all that we can to take a lead in encouraging people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

“Moreover, to pray from and in the home may help us to show that the church is, as we all know, us, the people of God, not our buildings.”

Notes to editors

  • There were 128,000 Church of England-led funerals during 2018, 61% of which took place in churches and 39% at crematoria/cemeteries
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Bishops reiterate their restrictions on use of church buildings – 1

Yet another letter from the bishops to all Church of England clergy has been issued today, Friday at 6.23 pm. You can read it here: 20200327 Letter from Archbishops and bishops. The full text is also copied below.

This came as an attachment to a press release, which is reproduced in the next article.

Letter from Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops of the Church of England to all clergy in the Church of England

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives

27 March 2020

We are writing further to you given the rapidly changing nature of the situation in our country at present. We want to thank you for the ministry you are exercising and for the creative and imaginative ways in which you are responding to the crisis and showing the love and care of Christ to the communities we serve, particularly to the most vulnerable in our society.

As we move towards Passiontide, focussing on what Jesus did for us on the cross, more than ever this is brought into stark focus.

We want to reiterate the advice we have already sent. The government is asking us to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. We call upon all our churches and church leaders, clergy and lay, to follow this advice.

We are in a time of great fearfulness. The numbers of those becoming seriously ill and dying is increasing. It therefore remains very important that our churches remain closed for public worship and private prayer. The Church of England is called to model the very best practice. We must lead by example. Staying at home and demonstrating solidarity with the rest of the country at this testing time, is, we believe, the right way of helping and ministering to our nation. Therefore, for a season, the centre for the liturgical life of the church must be the home, not the church building.

We recognise that this has its challenges. But many clergy and lay people have already started streaming and live streaming daily worship from their homes. Often they create prayer spaces or a small oratory in a room or the corner of a room. It is hugely encouraging to hear stories of how our prayers and loving actions are blessing our communities and reaching out beyond our usual congregations. Similarly it is wonderful to hear stories of innovative pastoral practice and spiritual care being undertaken in new ways. Thank you for this.

Not being able to use our church buildings is, of course, a huge loss to us all. We are aware that for many clergy it is hard not to be able to pray and worship in their church building; and for many lay people, not even being able to see worship going on in their church building is difficult. Streaming worship from home shows that we are alongside those who are having to self-isolate and those who are forgoing so many other things in their lives that they used to rely on. It also shows that we are facing up to the same restrictions as them and doing all that we can to take a lead in encouraging people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Moreover, to pray from and in the home may help us to show that the church is, as we all know, us, the people of God, not our buildings.

Nationally, the Church is making a growing range of digital resources available including weekly video broadcasts each Sunday; daily audio for prayer for the day and night prayer; webinars for churches; daily #LiveLent content; new mental health reflections; and apps and smart speaker skills. Lots of this content is also available in downloadable and printable formats. Explore everything available here. More will be added in the weeks and months ahead.

The BBC is also offering services on television and radio and online which people can access and we are working closely with them. This will be especially helpful for clergy who do not feel confident in streaming services themselves. No one should be under pressure to stream worship or feel guilty if they can’t.

Some of our communities do not have access to the internet. Please, therefore, do all that you can to ensure other resources are available and pastoral care is offered to all. For example, we know many places have set up telephone networks and these are crucial for keeping in touch with the vulnerable, isolated and elderly. We are endeavouring to make other resources for prayer and worship at home available, particularly for Holy Week.

The decision to close the church buildings and to prevent them being used for streaming has been a very difficult one. Some government advice suggests that we should be able to allow streaming from church buildings. Our advice, however, is that we should go the extra mile in following the clear public health advice and guidance which is to stay at home and to stay safe.

The government guidelines also continue to assert that funerals can take place in church buildings. The medical, epidemiological and public health advice we have received clearly indicates that this represents an additional layer of risk that we don’t need to take. Cleaning a church building after a funeral is much harder to do than a crematorium chapel. Furthermore, the ability of a parish priest to control the number of mourners will always be compromised by the proper instincts to care for the bereaved at the moment of a funeral. Of course, this is costly, but we believe the cost is less likely to be in human lives. Consequently, we are continuing to ask clergy to conduct funerals at the graveside or in a crematorium chapel.

We are very aware of how quickly events are changing and we will keep under review all our advice and guidance.

If Government guidance changes we will consider our own guidance. Our priority is to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Our prayers are with you all; let us all support one another.

With every blessing,

+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis

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Closing churches now codified in Government regulations

Updated Friday morning

The. government restrictions relating to church buildings have now been published in a Statutory Instrument: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.  (PDF version here.)

The relevant paragraphs are copied below. This wording supersedes earlier government notices.

Further restrictions and closures during the emergency period

…(5) A person who is responsible for a place of worship must ensure that, during the emergency period, the place of worship is closed, except for uses permitted in paragraph (6).

(6) A place of worship may be used–

  1. (a)  for funerals,
  2. (b)  to broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast, or
  3. (c)  to provide essential voluntary services or urgent public support services (including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency)…

Restrictions on movement

6.–(1) During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.
(2) For the purposes of paragraph (1), a reasonable excuse includes the need…

….(k)  in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship;…

—–

The position of most but not all of the Church of England diocesan bishops remains more restrictive (example here), in particular no funerals are allowed in church buildings, and broadcasting is forbidden from inside church buildings. But there are exceptions:

The Church Times reports the London diocese position:

…On Tuesday evening, the College of Bishops for the London diocese wrote to clergy stating that they understood “the need for a consistent approach to all worship and occasional offices”.

They write, none the less, that “where the church is accessible by an internal door from the clergy home, or can be accessed from the clergy home without leaving the curtilage of the church, we will encourage those — and only those — clergy to pray in their churches privately and to consider whether they could live stream their services from within the church building.”

The Bishop of Chichester yesterday issued this Ad Clerum which says:

…Many clergy have asked about whether they are forbidden to enter their churches. It is vital that we model best practice in terms of public safety, protecting the limited resources of the NHS, and attention to the care of the most vulnerable to infection. Nothing we do should compromise these concerns or the regulation of them by Government instruction.

If you can ensure that these requirements are met, and you still decide to go into church to pray and celebrate the Eucharist, I would respect your decision on the basis that it is made in conscience and informed by legitimate pastoral, spiritual, missional and legal considerations. Thank you to all who streamed services and messages last Sunday. Any service must clearly be solo-streamed or you should explain that it is being done with the aid of a person who lives in your home…

The Church Times editorial view supports a change:

…Thus the Archbishops’ letter on Tuesday, enforcing the shutting of all churches, must be broadly welcomed. When parks and outdoor areas are being closed or carefully policed, it is clearly wise to shut buildings to which many vulnerable people repair. We say “broadly”. Many priests can reach their churches without the risk of encountering other people. Some, indeed, are as close to their churches as are the Archbishops to their chapels at Lambeth and Bishopthorpe. The Archbishops give no reason for deviating from the advice of the London bishops on Sunday — that clergy who live “adjacent to their churches” may continue to enter, pray, and celebrate — other than that clergy must “take a lead in showing our communities how we must behave”.

Theologically, of course, the eucharist can be offered anywhere; but it is more than a symbolic act to offer the sacrament on behalf of the parish in the place where their prayers have been gathered. If commercial managers are being trusted to keep their key staff safe in the workplace, priests can decide whether they can enter a church safely. It would signal that the eucharist, and the church, fall into the category of key activities, alongside the shopping and the exercise that the Archbishops mention. We urge them to reconsider this aspect of their advice…

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Revised Government information about closing churches

Updated again 8.50 am Friday

The government advice which was previously given about allowing churches to be open for private prayer has been changed. The new wording is contained in this document, and the relevant section is copied below. There are differences between this and what the Church of England bishops have most recently said.

Update 1: the Diocese of Chelmsford has issued this letter from their bishops which says in part:

…We have become aware this morning that there is some confusion and indeed disagreement over the use of our church buildings in the current coronavirus restrictions. It seems this arises out of a difference between the current government advice and our own diocesan guidance based on the national church’s instruction from yesterday. 

The Church of England guidance does go further than the government guidance and comes from our own medical advice. In the light of that advice we believe we need to take the lead in demonstrating how important it is to stay at home and that we can still be the church without our buildings, hard though that is at present. 

As your four bishops we are asking in the strongest possible terms that churches and clergy follow our instruction and guidance in these matters for the immediate future. As a reminder that instruction is as follows:

1. Our church buildings remain totally closed with a notice on the door explaining why, as provided previously. This includes for the clergy, such that no act of worship is led or streamed from inside the building.

2. Therefore funerals are not possible in church, which we know is distressing for grieving families, but is safest in preventing the spread of the virus.  Funerals can only take place at the crematorium or at the graveside with numbers restricted to closest family (partners, children, parents) and the maintenance of social distancing.

3. For the support of the most vulnerable, food banks and other essential social services, where they operate out of the church building, can continue as long as strict distribution guidelines are adhered to (pick up of food outside at the door, again maintaining social distancing both outside and inside the building).  

We have no comfort in asking you to comply totally with these instructions, but we do believe it is our Gospel imperative and shared pastoral responsibility to be seen to be setting a lead to the whole of society. Being entirely blunt about it – this is what may save lives at present…

Update 2: The Government advice has been slightly changed (noticed at 14.30 Thursday), as shown below (italics denote superseded wording) and changed again (noticed at 8,45 Friday)

Update 3: The Church of England page can now be seen to contain the following update (which was not visible to me until just now, 24 hours later than the timestamp)

Last updated Wednesday 26 March 2020 at 16:00

  • Updated answer to What should I do about my PPC or APCM meeting? FAQ

Businesses and premises that must remain closed

The following businesses and premises must remain closed

Non-residential institutions Exceptions
Places of worship

 

 

 

 

Funerals, where the congregation is immediate family (with provision for a carer, if required) or a friend – in the case that no family members are attending. A distance of 2 metres is to be maintained between every household group, as per Public Health England guidelines.

A minister of religion, to go to their place of worship, including to broadcast an act of worship to people outside the place of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise.
replaced by
A minister of religion, to go to their place of worship may broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise.

And even later:

A minister of religion or worship leader may leave their home to travel to their place of worship. A place of worship may broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise.

For the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public service, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions.

 

35 Comments

Opinion – 25 March 2020

Peter Leonard ViaMedia.News Flattening the Curve

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church Chance Encounters and Changed Lives part 1

Christopher Southgate, Carla Grosch-Miller and Hilary Ison Tragedy and Congregations guidance for ministers as the coronavirus crisis deepens
“Thoughts for ministers during the first phase of the coronavirus crisis”

Godfrey Kesari Church Times Finding hope in the midst of a pandemic
“During this crisis, it is normal and natural to ask where God is. But this is not a time for Christians to retreat from their faith”

4 Comments

Church of England confirms closure of all church buildings.

A new press release was issued at 4.20 pm on Tuesday 24 March. The full text is copied below.

It refers to a letter from all the bishops to all the clergy, which can be found here.

The Church of England Covid-19 page has been updated with new FAQs.

Church of England to close all church buildings to help prevent spread of coronavirus

For immediate release
All Church of England churches are to close with immediate effect, including for private prayer, in an effort to help limit the transmission of the coronavirus COVID-19.

(more…)

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Church of England bishops respond to Prime Minister

The latest on the Church of England Coronavirus web page:

Last updated Monday 23 March 2020 at 21:30
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England have urged everyone to follow the instructions given by the Prime Minister to stay in their homes in a national effort to limit the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19)

There is then a link to the following announcement:

Archbishops and Bishops: stay at home but continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England have urged everyone to follow the instructions given by the Prime Minister to stay in their homes in a national effort to limit the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19). But they called on the Church to “continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable”.

It follows the announcement by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson of sweeping restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

It means all Church of England churches will close with immediate effect in line with the Government’s instructions. There will also be no weddings or baptisms.

Funerals can still go ahead but within strict limits with only the closest family in attendance and essential physical distancing measures in place.

In a joint statement the bishops said: He said: “In the light of the Government’s measures, announced by the Prime Minister this evening, we urge everyone to follow the instructions given.

“We will give a fuller statement of advice as soon as possible. Let us continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable, and build our communities, even while separated.”

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Lambeth Conference announces postponement to 2021

The following announcement has been made: The Lambeth Conference reschedules to the summer of 2021.

In recent weeks, the organising teams for the Lambeth Conference have been prayerfully thinking through the impact of coronavirus pandemic on the plans and preparations for this important event.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the Lambeth Conference Company has been monitoring the situation and following advice from public health authorities.

The public health risk of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom has now been assessed as ‘high’ by the UK’s Chief Medical Officers and a wide range of governmental measures are in place to respond to the health crisis.

Following consultation with the Lambeth Conference Design Group, Primates and trustees of the Lambeth Conference Company, The Archbishop of Canterbury has taken the important decision to reschedule the Lambeth Conference to the summer of 2021.

This significant meeting of Anglican bishops and spouses will continue to be planned- with an exciting and engaging programme, being held in the same venue at the University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral – just one year on.

Prioritising the health and safety of our event attendees

We recognise that this will be a significant disappointment for all those registered to attend. Whether it’s as an event delegate; participating in the hospitality programme; contributing to the conference programme; being part of our Resource Centre or serving as a volunteer or steward at the event. Especially as the Lambeth Conference in 2020 was set to be the largest conference yet.

However, the health and safety of our event attendees is our utmost priority. In addition, the global travel restrictions and quarantine implications will present many people with huge challenges in their travel plans.

We also recognise bishops and spouses attending the Lambeth Conference will be playing a vital leadership and pastoral role in their Provinces and dioceses as together the Anglican Communion seeks to respond to COVID-19 around the globe.

Follow this link  and scroll down for What happens next. There is also a video message from the Archbishop of Canterbury at the top of that page.

There is also a Frequently Asked Questions page.

Printable (PDF) copies of this announcement in various languages are available here.

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London area churches to close completely

This official notice has been issued, signed by the diocesan bishops of London, Southwark, Rochester and Chelmsford, each of which dioceses covers a number of London Boroughs. The full text is copied below, and includes a link to a template for a church door notice.

The Church Times reports accordingly: Close your churches completely, Bishops tell London clergy. (more…)

27 Comments

Opinion – 21 March 2020

Laudable Practice Pray the Litany Daily

Meg Munn Chair of the National Safeguarding Panel Synod Discusses Redress

Nicholas Henshall ViaMedia.News “Yoga-Gate” – Fundamentalism in a Twist

Savitri Hensman ViaMedia.News Dolly Parton and ++Michael Curry on the Power of Love

12 Comments

Key workers can include “religious staff”

FAQ about Key Workers published at 13.20 on Friday 20 March (check official page for later changes)

WHAT ABOUT KEY WORKERS?

Schools and childcare providers are being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children, including those whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.

The Government has published a list of categories of workers whose children will be prioritised. It includes “religious staff” – such as parish clergy and chaplains whose work is critical to the Covid-19 response.

All parents are being asked to keep their children at home, wherever possible, and schools are remaining open only for those children who absolutely need to attend. Clergy who wish to confirm that their role is necessary to the continuation of an essential public service must contact their bishop for approval.

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Archbishops issue a further letter on Coronavirus

Updated 5 pm Friday
A further letter to the clergy was sent by the archbishops of Canterbury and York on Thursday 19 March.

A PDF copy of this new letter can be read here. The full text is copied below.
The earlier letter to which it refers can be found over here.

There was a separate note attached to the new letter (but which I only discovered later), COVID-19-Prayer-in-Church. It reads as follows:

Prayer in Church

During the current epidemic, some churches will remain open for private prayer. This must not become an opportunity for groups to gather for informal times of communal prayer or to conduct public worship in any form.

To make private prayer as safe as possible, the following guidance should be observed.

  • Make sure those bits of the church that are touched often (door knobs, light switches etc) have been cleaned.
  • If you have toilets or washing facilities, make sure you are using disposable paper towels, and that there is plenty of soap. Put up notices on hand hygiene.
  • Have notices on the entrance doors reminding people of the Government advice on hygiene as well as asking them not to come into the church building if they have symptoms of COVID-19. 
  • Emphasise the importance of social distancing. Those who don’t already live together should sit at least 6 feet (2 metres) apart
  • Remove holy water from stoups
  • Discourage people from using shared pens/pencils/pads of paper etc if leaving prayer request notes. Wash hands before and after handling any such notes.
  • Do not have hymn books, prayer books, notice sheets or bibles available for common use.
  • If clergy are present, do not shake hands with people as they come in, leave, or at any other time

(more…)

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CofE practical advice on Baptisms

Copied from the official page timestamped 14.45 pm 19 March, check the official page for later changes. Plain text version:

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE FOR BAPTISMS

In this exceptional time, the Government’s guidance on social distancing and self-isolation will have a major impact on all aspects of everyday life, including the way baptisms can be conducted for the immediate future. Baptisms can continue in the Church of England but inevitably there will be some adaptations to protect everyone.

This means baptisms can go ahead, but they may be different from what might normally be expected.

BEFORE THE BAPTISM

It is advised that meetings between candidates or parents/guardians/carers and clergy are held by telephone, Skype etc. rather than face-to-face. If meetings can only be held in person, social distancing guidance will be followed.

Numbers of those attending the baptism must be kept to a minimum – the candidate, their parents/guardians/carers, godparents and the minister and no others.

This should also be communicated to anyone in the wider circle of friends, family or colleagues in advance who may wish to attend. Sadly, those over the age of 70 and those with an underlying health condition are strongly discouraged from attending any in the present circumstances.

If candidates or parents/guardians/carers wish to postpone the baptism in light of the restrictions in numbers, this is something that will be supported, and help given to find a suitable date in the future.

All baptisms will be “stand alone” events rather than part of a Sunday service as there is no longer public worship [defined as Church services which the public are invited to attend and take part in]. No additional church personnel will attend the service, for example organists, vergers or sound system operator etc.

PLANNING THE BAPTISM

Where family relatives or friends are unable to attend given the restrictions on numbering, churches will be happy to explore ways to allow others to join the service, either through platforms such as Skype, or recording the service to send at a later date to anyone unable to attend.

Where no audio link can be achieved, an order of service could be sent either by email or post.

Everyone attending the service must adhere to Government guidance on social distancing. Please follow the directions of the priest if you are attending a service.

While naturally those present may wish to shake hands or hug, all present should refrain from doing so in light of guidance on physical distancing.

Where infants are being baptised, a parent/guardian/carer will be asked to hold the infant for the duration of the service, including for the baptism.

Communal bibles and other items will not be used to minimise transmission risk and baptismal candles, if used, should be handled by one person only. A parent or Godparent will be asked to light and hold the candle on behalf of the candidate and to remove it safely immediately after the service.

The application of oil and signing of the cross will be done using an implement which avoids the need for direct physical contact.

While a parent/guardian/carer holds the infant, the officiating member of clergy will use an implement such as a shell to pour the water. A parent/guardian/carer will be asked to wipe the forehead of the baptised person with paper towels which can then be thrown away.

Unfortunately, baptism by immersion is not possible during the current restrictions.

AFTER THE BAPTISM

In keeping with the recommendations to limit social gatherings, there should not be a celebration or other gathering after the baptism, and this should be arranged at a future date once Government advice permits.

We will do our best to explain any changes or delays which may be an inevitable consequence of the current restrictions, but we are here to support you and to ensure baptism can go ahead or be rearranged to a suitable date in the future.

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CofE practical advice on Weddings

A new FAQ on Weddings has been published. As with the Funerals advice, republished here yesterday, I am copying the hard-to-read-for-some advice into a plain text format. This version is timestamped 14.45 19 March, I advise you to check the original official page for possible changes.

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE FOR WEDDINGS

If you are due to get married in the coming months, we recognise that this may be a time of great concern.

It will be possible for your wedding to go ahead with minimal numbers in attendance, or if you wish to rearrange your day, we will do everything we can to help you do so.

The following advice is provided for those planning weddings, either who wish to go ahead, or to find an alternative date in the future.

BEFORE THE WEDDING

It is advised that meetings between the couple and the priest are held by telephone, skype etc rather than face-to-face. If meetings can only be held in person, social distancing guidance will be followed.

This should also be communicated to anyone in the wider circle of friends, family or colleagues in advance who may wish to attend. Sadly, those over the age of 70 and those with an underlying health condition are strongly discouraged from attending any in the present circumstances.

PLANNING THE WEDDING

While wedding services may continue, numbers attending the ceremony in church will need to be strictly curtailed to the legal minimum, which is the priest, bride, groom and two witnesses.

Where family relatives or friends are unable to attend given the restrictions on numbering, churches will be happy to explore ways to allow others to join the service, either through platforms such as Skype, or recording the service to send at a later date to anyone unable to attend.

Where no audio link can be achieved, an order of service could be sent either by email or post.

Apart from the bride and groom, the physical distance should be observed as far as possible.

The priest does not have to touch the rings to bless them, nor does he or she have to touch the couple’s hands as part of a prayer or blessing, so it is possible for the service to proceed as normal.

No additional church personnel will attend the service, for example organists, vergers or sound system operator etc.

If a couple wishes to cancel their wedding, then any fees or deposit paid to the church will be refunded in full, and if the couple wishes to postpone, the church will work with them to find a suitable future date wherever possible.

Where it has not been possible for marriage banns to be read because of restrictions to public services, a Common Licence or Special Licence may be appropriate. The priest will be able to help you to ensure you have what is necessary.

For those going ahead with their wedding, it could be possible to have a blessing at a future date with more friends and family in attendance. Prayers can also be said during the service for any who are unable to attend.

AFTER THE WEDDING

In keeping with the recommendations to limit social gatherings, there should not be a reception or other gathering after the marriage; this should be arranged at a future date once Government advice permits.

We will do our best to explain any changes or delays which may be an inevitable consequence of the current restrictions,  but we are here to support you and to ensure your wedding can go ahead or be rearranged to a suitable date in the future.

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Bishop Barbara Harris

Bishop Barbara Harris, the first woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Anglican Communion has died.

Anglican Communion News Service Tributes paid following death of Barbara Harris – the Anglican Communion’s first female bishop

The New York Times Barbara Harris, First Woman Ordained an Episcopal Bishop, Dies at 89

The Washington Post Barbara C. Harris, first female bishop in Anglican Communion, dies at 89

The Episcopal News Service RIP: The Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, Anglican Communion’s first female bishop, dies at 89

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Is there now a postcode lottery in the Church of England?

Latest update 10.00 am Friday 20 March

The Church Times has reports on how the Coronavirus situation is playing out in the Church of England:

17 March: C of E suspends all services, though churches to stay open but this was followed on 18 March by

Church closures subject to postcode lottery which headline was later changed to C of E medical adviser gets tough with differing dioceses

THE Medical Adviser to the Church of England emphasised on Wednesday that the suspension of public worship must be implemented “without exception”, after advice from individual bishops appeared to contradict it, prompting confusion among the clergy…

…Within hours, different interpretations of the advice were circulating online. A central question was whether clergy would be joined by worshippers at the daily Offices or say them alone, and whether the laity could still receive communion. Clergy also questioned how public worship could be avoided if churches were to be kept open throughout the day. Some expressed frustration at the variation in episcopal advice and concern that people were seeking out loopholes in the Archbishops’ guidance…

On Thursday, the Archbishops issued a clarifying Ad Clerum, which acknowledged that “not receiving holy communion is a serious loss for the people we serve”.

The Ad Clerum mentioned immediately above can be found in the next article. At the time of publication here (11.30 pm Thursday), it had apparently not yet appeared on other websites, but had evidently been issued by email on Thursday afternoon. It isn’t mentioned in the official CofE Daily Media Digest for Friday, either.

Some other ad clerums and similar notices are linked below. Please would readers add comments below to provide links to other dioceses.
London College of Bishops  Archdeacon of London

Leeds ad clerum  Diocesan page

Sheffield 17 March  18 March

Winchester  Bishop’s letter

Ely  Bishop of Huntingdon

Oxford Diocese  Ad clerum

(interesting to note that “The Diocese of Oxford’s Emergency Planning Team wrote to incumbents and wardens on 9 March requesting that each parish and/or benefice puts in place a continuity plan in preparedness for the developing Coronavirus situation.”)

Peterborough 16 March  19 March

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CofE practical advice on Funerals

I have copied this into plain text from the official page (which may change, so check it directly; this version was datestamped 16.50 Wed 18 March)

PRACTICAL GUIDANCE FOR FUNERALS

In this exceptional time, the Government’s guidance on social distancing and self-isolation will have a major impact on all aspects of everyday life, including the way funerals will be conducted for the immediate future. Christian funerals will continue in the Church of England but inevitably there will be some adaptations to protect everyone.

This means funerals can go ahead, but they may be different from what might normally be expected.

BEFORE THE FUNERAL

It is advised that meetings between the bereaved and the person taking the funeral (officiant) are held by telephone, skype etc rather than face-to-face. If meetings can only be held in person, social distancing guidance will be followed.

PLANNING THE FUNERAL

Although this will be very difficult for everyone, numbers of those attending the funeral will have to be kept to a minimum – we advise immediate family only. This should also be communicated to anyone in the wider circle of friends, family or colleagues in advance. Sadly, those over the age of 70 and those with an underlying health condition are strongly discouraged from attending in the present circumstances.

Any changes to the normal service will be explained by the officiant to the family.

Where family relatives or friends are unable to attend a funeral service, clergy can still take a funeral at the graveside or crematorium, even if those present are limited to clergy and funeral directors.

Consider whether a memorial service could be held at some point in the future, which is an opportunity for more people to come together once Government guidance permits.

Those who are self-isolating may be offered the opportunity to join the service via a system such as Skype or another audio link. Failing this, a recording could be made which can be sent to anyone unable to attend after the service.

Where no audio link can be achieved, officiants may be able to provide an order of service, either by email or post.

No additional people should be expected to attend the service, such as an organist, verger, sound system operator etc.

DURING THE FUNERAL

Everyone attending the service must adhere to Government guidance on social distancing. Please follow the directions of the officiant and funeral director if you are attending a service.

While naturally those present may wish to shake hands or hug, all present should refrain from doing so in light of guidance on physical distancing.

AFTER THE FUNERAL

In keeping with the recommendations to limit social gatherings, there should not be a wake or other gathering after the funeral, although it may possible to hold a gathering at a later date

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.

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Opinion – 18 March 2020

Fergus Butler-Gallie The Fence Diary of an Urban Parson

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The John Smyth saga – further observations

Andrew Lightbown Theore0 Talking of coronavirus,church, continuation and concomitance

David Ison ViaMedia.News Minding Our Adjectives…

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