Thinking Anglicans

Archbishop: on the need to keep church buildings closed

This video has been published today by the Church of EnglandA message from Archbishop Justin Welby on the need to keep church buildings closed.

Transcript:
There’s been a lot of comment, both publicly and privately, about the closure of church buildings and all sorts of strange ideas about why the bishops and archbishops felt it was necessary to close the building. They range from conspiracy ideas that we’ve always really wanted to, through to comments about obsession with health and safety and all this sort of thing.

There are actually five very simple reasons, all of them pretty positive. The first is to set an example: the government has said again and again, and every public health official in the country is saying, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. It’s a very simple message and it’s a very ethical message – it’s about looking after those who look after us, and it’s about looking after the most vulnerable. By closing the churches we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message: stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. The second reason is that part of the church’s role is to be with people. The church building is a building, the Church is the people of God, and when we don’t go to the church building we go back to what we did in the early centuries of the Church and what churches all around the world do at present, which is we meet in homes, just family and household, we use the wonders of technology to be in touch with each other, but we recover the sense that Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name I am there with them.” And they don’t even actually to be physically gathered, virtually gathered does very well indeed. Jesus is quite up-to-date on this stuff.

And thirdly, for ministers, for priests and bishops it’s about sharing in the inconveniences, the restrictions, the isolations imposed on us. It’s about being part of the flock rather than some super special category that can go and do its own thing.

Fourthly, we need to remember that the Church of England is the Church for England. There are all kinds of arguments about being an established church but deep within our DNA, deep within our nature, in every parish, for all of us who’ve been parish priests, there is the sense you’re there for everyone. And if you’re there for everyone, it means you have to think about everyone. You have to be available in whatever way is best, and the public health message is, let me say it again, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. So if we’re the Church for England we pay attention to that.

And fifthly, it’s not just about us you know, the believers, it’s about everyone, it’s about being welcoming in every way we can. The online services are being accessed by vast numbers of people – they may not be everything that those of us who are regulars, lifelong churchgoers want, but they are a way of reaching out. It’s a way of saying we don’t depend on the buildings, It’s a way of saying we don’t depend on the buildings, wonderful as they are, and they are treasures. What we depend on is the presence of God,through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, who leads us into his love, into his mission, into following him.

May God bless and keep you in this difficult period.

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Jayne Ozanne
Jayne Ozanne
5 months ago

Sadly, the Archbishop doesn’t seem to realise that not all people are “online” – indeed many of our elderly and poorer parishioners do not have computers. In addition, many of those going through trauma and loss do not want “church done to them”, they just want a place where they can run to (a Sanctuary) and where they can sit and connect with God themselves.

I’ve written about it today (before I heard the Archbishop’s message) on Via Media
https://viamedia.news/2020/04/08/whos-caring-for-our-nations-spiritual-health/

John Wallace
John Wallace
5 months ago
Reply to  Jayne Ozanne

Thanks, Jayne, agree totally. Even if they are on-line, they don’t want to engage with social media with all its attendant risks.

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
5 months ago
Reply to  John Wallace

If you imagine that the attendant risks of engaging with social media outweigh the risk of dying alone, isolated from friends and family at home or in an intensive care unit, or causing others to die alone, isolated from friends and family at home or in an intensive care unit then you are wilfully blind. And encouraging people to seek ‘sanctuary’ in a church is criminally negligent; if you seriously believe that those giving their all to help others would wish to endanger others by entering a church then clearly you have not listened to them begging people to stay… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
5 months ago
Reply to  Jayne Ozanne

I agree with Jayne.
How many people will watch this video; how many CofE priests even; let alone the ‘ordinary’ person not in or on the street? Who are you speaking to? 24 Million saw the Queen address the nation on TV; 27 million the Prime Minister.
Dear Archbishop, you must reach out from your ‘Upper Room’ sharing your Living faith in the Living Room- it’s a matter of spiritual life and death this week. Looking forward to seeing you on the News, encouraging the nation. The dead stones are speaking out in their way.

Simon Butler
Simon Butler
5 months ago
Reply to  Jayne Ozanne

I’m afraid I have to disagree Jayne. There are so many potential transmission routes that contact with a particular space can be a serious risk of infection spreading. In our Parish we have established a team of Coronavirus Angels, working with partners to provide befriending as well as practical skills. We have as of today 330 volunteers from our neighbourhood and are training them to act as befrienders. The key element is partnership and we have clear contact details available on the church door. The course of action you suggest in your article presents a real risk of harm to… Read more »

David Keen
David Keen
5 months ago
Reply to  Jayne Ozanne

Without control of access to the ‘Sanctuary’ this would just make the church a place of risk at the moment. However we feel about our church buildings, they are out of bounds and rightly so. Maybe this will wean us off them, and we’ll discover that was a good thing. We need to help people to connect with God in their own homes and life settings – which I hope any priest worth their salt tries to do anyway in normal times. Our parish has home delivered the liturgies and prayer resources that we use in our live streamed worship,… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago
Reply to  David Keen

Very similar situation with us here in western Canada, David.

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago

A correspondent tells me that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford has circulated colleagues with these words of Nathaniel Hodges of Christ Church, both a practising doctor and an academic, who in 1672 published a treatise on the plague: “FIRST of all therefore, they ought to be deemed as a kind of Traitors, who frighten the credulous Populace with the Apprehensions of an approaching Plague, by idle and groundless Reports and Predictions; for the Propagation of the late Sickness was too notoriously assisted by this Means, to want any Arguments to prove it. “THE timely Separation also of… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago

There has been an obvious, and pressing, need for the BBC and ITV to fill the gap in this present crisis. Everyone mentioned as being excluded from the Archbishop’s message surely has access to radio and television. I’m not talking about the ‘Daily Service’ nor ‘Songs of Praise’. It should be possible for there to be a televised religious service every day (and it doesn’t have to be Anglican) which would be accessible to every household, hospital and care home in the land. Fifteen minutes in the morning, at noon and evening shouldn’t be beyond them. I am an Anglican,… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 months ago

We can’t afford a TV licence and this Government doesn’t care much for the poor so the requirement to have a licence remains in place. We live in a very deprived area and I bet many of our neighbours can’t afford a TV licence either. We do have broadband but we have relatives who don’t.

David Lamming
David Lamming
5 months ago

One of the problems over the last two weeks, frequently the subject of comment on TA, has been the ‘mixed messages’ contained in the Archbishops’ letters, especially when compared with (initially) changing Government guidance on the MHCLG website and, since 26 March 2020, in the Public Health (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020, especially regulations 5(6) and 6(2)(k). It is open for the Archbishops, in their advice, to go further than the Government’s ‘legal’ restrictions, and it is helpful that Archbishop Justin has now clarified the Church’s position with this message, giving reasons why churches should remain closed, notwithstanding the exceptions contained… Read more »

Peter Bostock
Peter Bostock
5 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

Reading the Archbishops’s words, I am not sure how the Church of England is identifying with the many people who have to go to another building to work, usually coming into contact with many people. That said, suppose those Christian bodies that allow their clergy to pray alone in their churches in accordance with Government guidance are encouraging mass disobedience.

Kate
Kate
5 months ago
Reply to  David Lamming

It’s worse than that David because, if the remote consecration was ineffective, then you have to have two believers at the livestreaming location otherwise there is no gathering to share the bread and wine so people wouldn’t even be watching a valid Eucharist. The real issue is that opinion is bound to be split on something so novel and the Church of England is only catering to those with the most liberal views. Bubbling beneath that is that the more you tell people that livestreaming is acceptable, the more embedded it will become and the less chance there is of… Read more »

Richard
Richard
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Is the alternative allowing people to consecrate bread and wine at home? Bubbling beneath that is the idea that the wider community and communion are not necessary and eventually people won’t turn up for that reason.

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I’m sorry but that’s totally ridiculous. Everyone I’ve spoken to in my parish is grateful for the live streaming but they all say how much they’re missing actually being together and seeing each other again when all this is over.

Maybe if a person goes to a big church where quality of ‘performance’ is the main draw, I can see the potential, but for small churches (and the majority of churches in the world are small) people value the community, not just the choir and the liturgy and the sermon.

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago

Enough about this issue! Could we please get on with praying and serving people in the name of Jesus? People are dying in their thousands, and all we can argue about is church buildings? It’s time to get over ourselves.

Tony Bellows
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

People are more important than church buildings, a case made by G.K. Chesterton in one of his Father Brown stories, but we are also incarnate human beings, flesh and blood, and we also need that physical connection. It is also why we stand or sit or kneel. We are physical beings, and worship is not just words but a whole lot else. The early Apostles didn’t behave like good Protestants and say meeting in my home is enough, we can give up on the Synagogue – they knew better. They needed that connection with sacred place. William Barclay put it… Read more »

Susannah Clark
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Totally agree. I support the position the Archbishops (and the Prolocutors) have explained, and lock down is lock down, out of decency and solidarity. Just get on with it. Nearly 1000 people died here in the UK today because the disease got spread. Many have lost their jobs and security because of the lock down. Others are risking their lives looking after the sick. Tragically, too many are dying who should not have died. I believe the Church should take the ‘hit’ as well, out of solidarity. It’s a lock down. As Simon mentions in his post, there are ways… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

I so agree. And maybe this will remind us that for the first three Christian centuries we did very will without buildings. If the New Testament speaks truth, everything essential to Christianity is doable in a house. Buildings are nice but they’re not essential, and if we’ve allowed clergy and people to feel like they can’t pray anywhere else, we’ve actually done a very bad thing. By the way, if anyone wants a wonderful imagining of what it might really have been like to be part of the house churches in Rome in New Testament times, can I highly recommend… Read more »

american piskie
american piskie
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Amen.

J Kirby
J Kirby
5 months ago

I can’t help thinking there’s no small amount of dishonesty here from Welby. I think there’s a deliberate attempt to conflate two issues: (1) the closure of churches for public worship, and (2) banning priests from entering their church buildings. The first is entirely reasonable in the current crisis, the second is gratuitous and nonsensical. He contrasts online services with services conducted in church in a way that implies a service in church could not be similarly shared online. I don’t get the logic of that. I don’t think there is any – I think it’s a deliberate fog. Many… Read more »

Tony Bellows
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

Meanwhile, in Wales, The Archbishop John Davies is encouraging streaming services from Church buildings, within guidelines, and also now giving guidance on bell-ringing. Church bells will ring out in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon and elsewhere on Easter Sunday after an appeal by Archbishop of Wales John Davies and some of his fellow bishops. They have emphasised that the visit to the church building by a bell-ringer, either alone or with a member of his or her household, will be undertaken in strict adherence to Welsh Government regulations and the Bishops’ own Pastoral Guidance. The Archbishop, who is president… Read more »

Tony Bellows
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

What has happened to Synodical government and consensus? Has it been replaced by dictat from Canterbury, much as it was in the time of Archbishop Laud?

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Bellows

It’s emergency action in crisis conditions – national, international and, last of all, the Church of England. Please read what Susannah Clark and Tim Chesterton, and others, have repeatedly said which, sadly, seems to fall on so many deaf ears. See today’s updated death statistics. Consider the deaths of doctors, nurses and even people in residential care homes where one expects that they would be protected – many reported yesterday. Consider the fact that elderly churchgoers are more vulnerable of risking infection, and potentially passing it on. Where does synodical government figure in these scenarios?

David Exham
David Exham
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Bellows

Tony: What has happened is called Covid19. This is not a situation when Synodical government, with its inevitably glacial process, can possibly be used. We need our leaders to take decisions and, even if we would have done something different, to do what they tell us. Nonsense about Archbishop Laud might suggest that you haven’t understood the situation, but I am sure that would be unfair.!

John S
John S
5 months ago
Reply to  David Exham

“We need our leaders to take decisions and, even if we would have done something different, to do what they tell us.”

I don’t think I can conceive of any crisis severe enough to elevate that to a ruling principle (military personnel on active service possibly excepted).

T Pott
T Pott
5 months ago
Reply to  Tony Bellows

Further back than Laud even I suggest, Mr Bellows. Back to Langton, Innocent III and the Interdict. Welby dismisses “strange ideas” about health and safety, or them wanting to do this anyway. Well the bishops themselves initially claimed to be acting on their own medical advice, and so be going further than the government suggest. Perhaps that is why people thought of health and safety. Of the five reasons now given, two are things which could have been done without the pandemic, so if they are in fact “pretty positive” then why wouldn’t they want to do them anyway? Are… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 months ago

“The first is to set an example: the government has said again and again, and every public health official in the country is saying, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.” Actually the Government hasn’t told workers (which would include ministers) to stay home. So for instance the Government was pushing for HS2 construction to continue and is recalling passport staff who are hardly essential with most international travel shut down. “The second reason is that part of the church’s role is to be with people. ” No, the Church’s role is first and foremost the worship of God,… Read more »

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I personally would steer clear of the ongoing debacle at the Home Office; praying Priti Patel in aid of your argument is unlikely to encourage those familiar with the truly dreadful treatment of vulnerable people by the Home Office. And whilst no doubt her deputy scientific advisor did sterling work on robotic engineering his entire lack of qualifications pertinent to the management of a pandemic is painfully obvious: his belief that 80% of the population is going to catch Covid-19 suggests that he has not attempted to familiarise himself with the relevant scientific advice from those who are qualified. If… Read more »

Charles Razzall
Charles Razzall
5 months ago

Just read that Canterbury Cathedral have announced that they are going to ring a bell at 2000hrs every evening…..will this be by remote control from Lambeth Palace…or will it amazingly involve someone going into a church building?

T Pott
T Pott
5 months ago

According to KentOnLine, the bell is being rung remotely. It doesn’t say how remotely, I suspect not as remote as London. At lest they understand how important a bell can be.

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
5 months ago
Reply to  T Pott

Alas, people commenting about the bell reveal their ignorance of John Donne’s great masterpiece. Perhaps if they bothered to read it and listen to it they may understand the extraordinary link between us and the time he was writing.

“ No man is an island entire of itself…” and it ends with that roll of thunder:

Send not to ask for whom the bell tolled: it tolls for you, ..

Charles Read
Charles Read
5 months ago

I think it involves a long rope extending from the cathedral into the Deanery…

Oliver Harrison
Oliver Harrison
5 months ago

Monday 23rd evening: Bishop of Rochester orders clergy in diocese to pray “at home, on the phone, or online” and threatens potential disciplinary measures if breached. Tuesday 24th AND Wednesday 25th: Bishop of Rochester appears in Westminster, leading prayers in the House of Lords. £323 a day.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
5 months ago

Oh dear! Perhaps he’d had a special dispensation from the Scottish deputy medical officer or the UK minister for housing.

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
5 months ago

During the time of this crisis, right across the UK, one of the things we have been seeing and hearing is joint statements being issued by Leaders of all the churches as well as Leaders of Non Christian faiths, a greater working together ecumenically as well as on the Interfaith front. As far as the Christian front is concerned, it has made me more and more aware of the absolute absurdity and sin of our Christian divisions. We have become so domesticated in our history in the UK to Christian division that we have come to assume it is normal!… Read more »

Angusian
Angusian
5 months ago

So unconvincing ! If the bishops were aware of the configuration of individual church buildings, listened to their archdeacons and acted with a sense of their prophetic ministry, their comprehensive ruling would be considered. The Thunderer column in this morning’Times by Marcus Walker is a reasoned appeal to our bishops. Definitely time for some catholic theological thinking !!

Dave
Dave
5 months ago
Reply to  Angusian

A couple of questions if I may.

1. What is wrong with an individual member of the clergy going into the church building – to collect material, (say the Sacrament), to get robes for a funeral, to check all is well in the building? And even… to live stream a service from the people’s church rather than from a front room in a (private) house.

2. Do the Archbishops have the authority to impose these restrictions? I thought churchwardens were the principal officers in saying who could and could not enter the church.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Dave

Canon E1 4. “Of Churchwardens” says this: “4. The churchwardens when admitted are officers of the bishop. They shall discharge such duties as are by law and custom assigned to them; they shall be foremost in representing the laity and in co-operating with the incumbent; they shall use their best endeavours by example and precept to encourage the parishioners in the practice of true religion and to promote unity and peace among them. They shall also maintain order and decency in the church and churchyard, especially during the time of divine service.” Churchwardens could hardly regulate entry of the church… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
5 months ago

I’ve appreciated the music resources available online from St. Martin in the Fields this past week. You can follow live coverage of Holy Week Papal liturgies, those from St. Peter’s and other venues, via Rome Reports and the live event window.(see link). I will celebrate a Maundy Thursday Eucharist in a few hours at home with one other person to communicate, using EP Six ( which I think is Prayer D, TEC). Basically, one aspect of Eucharist is that it is something the church does as a responsibility to Christ: plus I’m inspired by the two guys At Emmaus.

https://www.romereports.com/en/2020/04/09/pope-begins-easter-triduum-at-vatican-without-pilgrims/

Charles Read
Charles Read
5 months ago

What some people are missing in saying we don’t need church buildings and that the early Christians worshipped in homes is that they worshipped in the home of a wealthy member of the congregation who had a big house. Lots of people turned up for services – worship was corporate but not public. What we are having to do now is not that – we cannot meet together in one space. We are not recreating the early church. This is new. We should not duck the pain of it. And we might also invoke Tom Wright’s five act play model… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago

I doubt there will ever be agreement on Covid strategies. It’s informed guesswork for scientists, even experts. It can’t be anything else, for this is a novel virus. Novel means novel. The virus is more infectious/contagious than was first thought (but not as much as say measles) and more virulent/fatal than first thought (but not as much as say ebola). It’s difficult to plan in these circumstances. Of course the hypocrisy of the Bishop of Rochester (Oliver Harrison’s comment) and the silliness of Canterbury bells (Charles Razzall’s) need to be pointed out – and such like – but as for… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago

Said with characteristic robustness, there is much to ponder here. Things are now very close to home. An elderly retired bishop whom I know has contracted the virus in a care home – where one would expect residents to be safe. He has now been transferred to hospital. A dear friend has died (not from the virus, as far as I know) but his family could not be with him at the end, and he cannot have the Christian funeral in church as in normal circumstances. His wife has stoically accepted both facts, albeit with a heavy heart, accepting the… Read more »

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