Thinking Anglicans

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


Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Thursday 19 March

As our letter made clear the other day, although public worship in the Church of England must stop for now, the life of prayer goes on.

Some people have quite legitimately asked for further clarification of what this means.

Although it is impossible to answer all your questions, we hope that these guidelines will enable us to act together across our dioceses, and also enable us to look positively at the challenges and opportunities before us.

It is important for us to act consistently and we do urge you to follow this advice and to share it with all your clergy and others in the dioceses.

1. Daily Prayer

Wherever possible clergy and authorised lay ministers should continue to sustain a daily pattern of prayer. Even though we cannot invite people to join us, it is important to let people know that this prayer is going on. The lay ministers who are able to help lead these services are all Readers and Licensed Lay Ministers, churchwardens, or other lay ministers who either hold the bishop’s license (such as Church Amy Evangelists) or those who have some sort of local/diocesan authorisation.

However, in order to sustain this life of prayer, especially in rural communities, we encourage each diocesan bishop to give their blessing and permission for the Incumbent and churchwardens of a benefice to invite suitable individuals to help lead the prayer.

This is not public worship by other means. Only those who have been specifically invited by the Incumbent should take part, and of course all the protocols about touch and physical distancing must be strictly observed.

Chairs, for instance, where they are used should be placed apart from each other at a distance of two metres.

When someone turns up at our churches when this prayer or the Eucharist is taking place, they should be politely invited to sit somewhere else in the building and then afterwards it can be explained that because of physical distancing and other guidance we are following to protect people public worship is not taking place, but that they and the whole community is being prayed for.

2. Live streaming

Some of you have already found ways of live streaming your worship. If you have a smart phone, the technology is not so difficult to master. However, there is information about churches that live stream their worship on the Church of England website (https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches), and where cathedrals or parish churches are live streaming morning and evening prayer every day, please let your parishes know this is available and do add services and events to www.AChurchNearYou.com.

3. The Eucharist

Some parishes will continue with a daily Eucharist. Again, the protocols of refraining from touch, distancing ourselves from each other, sharing the peace differently, and only receiving Holy Communion in one kind remain.

The Eucharist is, sadly, no longer a public act of worship. Therefore, only the priest and one or two others should participate, though the Eucharist itself is offered for the whole people of God and for the whole parish, and for the wider community.

Not receiving holy communion is a serious loss for the people we serve, and we must acknowledge this. There is information on the Church of England website about what is called ‘spiritual communion’. Please encourage people to use this service at home.

Furthermore, we need to encourage our people to rise to the challenge that even though they cannot receive Christ in the sacraments in the way they are used to, they can be the presence of Christ in their homes and their communities, and they can be a praying presence wherever they are and whatever their circumstances.

4. Other resources

Other resources for worship at home are available on the Church of England website and we are sure you are providing resources in your diocese.

5. The occasional offices

Baptisms, weddings and funerals are having to be conducted very differently. Please consult the advice on the Church of England website about what to do. This advice is being updated every day.

Further liturgies are being worked on especially in relation to short funerals and memorial services.

6. Being a people of prayer

This is probably the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity of all. As we said in our letter earlier this week: “Being a member of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead. Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.”

As well as the online resources that we have referred to above, please take every opportunity to provide help and encouragement to the people in your diocese, enabling them to be rooted in a daily rhythm of prayer.

Encourage families to pray together and to use resources such as those provided for Thy Kingdom Come to ensure our faith is alive in our homes and houses. In this regard we have much to learn again from our Jewish brothers and sisters. Let us make our homes alive with our prayers and our hopes.

The cancellation of meetings and services has probably given us all more unscheduled time than we are used to. Perhaps we should use this time to deepen our own prayer life and think about how our dioceses can produce resources for prayer, both for the church, but also for the wider community.

Everyone is feeling very anxious at the moment. Many are fearful. Even though we cannot invite people to our church services, let us make sure our buildings are open, and people know they can come and spend time in church on their own, or with a loved one. Make sure there are prayer resources for people to use. Make sure that the fact that the building is open is well- publicised.

Further government guidance may even prevent us from offering our buildings in this way. But while we can, let us enable people to come in this way (please see attached notes on keeping safe in this regard).

7. Being a people of love

It is a remarkable strength of the church how much we do to ensure the life of communities flourish and the work we do with the most vulnerable and marginalised. Now more than ever we need to be alongside people in safe and appropriate ways. You will we know be ensuring people are taking their normal lead in neighbourhood initiatives and connecting with the elderly and those in real need.

As those who understand we are loved by God, however hard we find that personally to accept we are also those who need to show love to other in practice and in our daily lives.

8. Holy Week & Easter

Our celebration of Easter this year is going to feel very strange as we will not be able to get together in the way we would wish. But Holy Week could be a profound experience of walking the way of the cross and experiencing the isolation that Jesus experienced as everyone fell away and he faced the cross alone. We need to think about how we can provide resources to help people walk the way of the cross at home. If you have any ideas that you wish to share more widely, or resources you have developed for people to use at home or online, please let us know. For example, the book Walking the Way of the Cross: Prayers and Reflections on the Biblical Stations of the Cross (Stephen Cottrell, Philip and Paula Gooder) and others like it, will come into their own this year.

8. Outside worship

Finally, some people have asked whether the suspension of public worship in our church buildings also includes acts of worship organised outside. It does. In order to slow the progress of the coronavirus and to enable our health service to deal with the massively increased demand it is facing, we all need to take responsibility for keeping to the letter as well as the spirit of our guidelines.

Prayer continues. But it continues in our hearts and in our homes, not in our churches. And those of us who through our ordination have been given the particular responsibility to lead the prayer of the church do this for the nation each day, even though we are unable to invite people to join us.

Do keep referring to the Church of England coronavirus webpage (https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches) for FAQs and advice. This page is constantly being updated.

We are keeping all of you in our prayers as we know you are praying for us. As we speak especially to the bishops may we encourage you to give clear guidance to all your clergy and parishes. As we live in such anxious if not to say fearful times, we do need to lead but to lead in a new and prophetic way. This is difficult for all of us but please join with us in demonstrating that the Church of England has indeed a Christian presence in every community and we are praying for all and working alongside all in these very troubled times.

With every blessing,

+Justin Cantuar +Sentamu Eboracensis

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Fr Martin Hislop
6 months ago

An attempt to provide some clarity to the initial inconsistent and inadequate dictat. The reference to the eucharist sadly continues to sadly reflect an inadequate understanding of the spiritual centrality of this sacrament for many. Yet again a letter is addressed to the clergy but is published to the media and not delivered to to the clergy.

Shamus
Shamus
5 months ago

I completely get the power of the eucharist celebrated on behalf of all who cannot attend, and in normal times that “works”. The eucharist is central for me. However, my conscience says I should be in solidarity with all the laity who will be unable to receive the sacrament at this time. I also worry somewhat about the safety of any service with anyone receiving even if it’s only one other person, as I feel unsure about guaranteeing social distancing.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
5 months ago

Some parishes are streaming their services. Why not encourage people to watch at home and consume their own bread and wine? In the earliest Church holy communion seems to have been celebrated at home by the head of the house. In these exceptional circumstances I’m sure God can cope with consecrating the bread and wine wherever it is offered in faith.

Nic
Nic
5 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

What good sense, Janet.

NJW
NJW
5 months ago

I received this earlier as part of a diocesan distribution to serving clergy and churchwardens – with a specific request that it was advice aimed at clergy, and not for circulation via the media. If you have not received it from your diocese, it may be worth asking locally about circulation lists – all sorts of systems are being tested in ways that they have not been before.

american piskie
american piskie
5 months ago

I am astonished (though I shouldn’t be) that some seem to prioritise their own spiritual “needs” over the urgent practical needs of the community. I will find it a comfort if the parish clergy go on celebrating the eucharist even without other communicants: and as for our not being able to communicate, well surely it’s time to dust off our BCPs and remember “… if a man, …. by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood: the Curate shall instruct him that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 months ago

’I am astonished (though I shouldn’t be) that some seem to prioritise their own spiritual “needs” over the urgent practical needs of the community.’ But that’s an unfair characterisation because some believe that the Eucharist is inherently safe through blessing and, if it isn’t, that’s God’s will. Such views seem to be relatively uncommon among liberal Anglicans but are more common in other denominations and, potentially, in other styles of Anglicanism. Moreover, you are presupposing that we “do” Eucharist for our selves. Again, some believe that participation in the Eucharist is an inherent part of our service to God and… Read more »

Philip Hobday
Philip Hobday
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I may be misunderstanding this comment, but speaking as someone who would not describe themselves as a theological liberal, I find it almost impossible to imagine any theological justification for the assertion that the bread and wine are either inherently safe or that any deleterious effects which resulted were somehow God’s will. I am also baffled by the notion that we are interrupting divine service for ‘secular’ concerns. What we are being asked to do can certainly be justified as a potentially lifesaving response to a major international public health emergency. If any further and distinctly theological argument were needed,… Read more »

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
5 months ago
Reply to  Philip Hobday

Thank you for your response on this; as the mother of a consultant physician dealing with those coming into the acute medical unit, whether it be to the mundane task of seeking to resuscitate a patient, or the ever popular “spot the corona virus case”, it is a comfort to know that some at least are capable of challenging these claims about the Eucharist, which would inexorably lead to the completely predictable result of doctors and other healthcare professionals dying. Italy had lost 13 doctors and numerous other healthcare professionals, all at the tip of the sharp end, by Thursday… Read more »

Richard
Richard
5 months ago
Reply to  Philip Hobday

The consecrated wine might be safe because it is blessed. How about spittle on the outside of the chalice?

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate. ‘some believe that the Eucharist is inherently safe through blessing and, if it isn’t, that’s God’s will.’ I have only known that taught in some conservative Pentecostal churches. Even the very concerned current discussion threads among those with a high doctrine of the mass are not arguing that. But I wonder where your evidence is for this in any case? The argument itself is circular – if you don’t get sick then it is true. If you get ill it is God’s will. But it is actually the general theology of sickness taught in the BCP – ‘whatsoever your… Read more »

Richard Franklin
Richard Franklin
5 months ago

Where is the information – and hopefully prayers – on the C of E website about Spiritual Communion as referred to in the Archbishops’ letter? I haven’t been able to find it. Spiritual Communion is a time honoured means by which those unable (once those not desirous) of receiving the sacrament physically may be assured that they may still receive its grace. I know there is a statement about it in the BCP but prayers etc. to make this a reality for people could be important at this time. It has been commended by the RC hierarchy during the ‘crisis’.

John Scrivener
John Scrivener
5 months ago

There is a BCP based form, apparently designed for the armed forces, at http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1928/AFPB_Spir_Communion.htm

Kate
Kate
5 months ago

I think this and companion guidance is unfair on parish ministry teams. It is raising the expectation of video conferencing (those needing to organise a funeral, for example, cannot in these times, be expected to necessarily be co-located so it is a true conference rather than a simple video call) and streaming. Many will lack the technical means and even more the know how. The guidance should have been published with a technical addendum giving detailed practical advice on how things can be set up. Church House employs IT staff who could quickly draft guidance even if working from home.

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, I get this, but I think it’s also a symptom of many clergy’s tendency to work in isolation. I’m having to ask for lots of help with this sort of stuff right now, and our parish currently has one and a quarter employees (including me). But I’ve discovered that my kids can usually answer my IT questions and if not, a simple request on Facebook (‘Anyone know how to…?’) usually brings the answer pretty quickly.

Nic
Nic
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

The most simple Google search leads to multiple options – physician, heal thyself. WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, BlueJeans, Zoho, Adobe, etc depending on precise requirements. There are free solutions and paid-for solutions, but even these are not particularly expensive. How does any business/organisation survive in times of challenge? Adaptation. Those in parish ministry would be well advised to do the same, or else they have no “right” to survive. We could well see those offering a credible online offering in the current environment growing their congregations, whilst for those that remain in splendid isolation, this could be… Read more »

Richard
Richard
5 months ago
Reply to  Nic

It’s surely not necessary for every parish to acquire hardware, etc. and produce a web broadcast of the Sunday Eucharist. The diocese probably does this, and large churches surely do.

Tim Cnesterton
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard

No one needs to acquire anything. With Facebook Live you can stream a service with an iPad propped up against a stack of books.

James
James
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard

The only hardware required is a smartphone and the most basic tripod (or substitute). Alternatively, how about Morning Prayer via Zoom using laptop or desktop computer? It really couldn’t be easier – better than waiting for the diocese to do something. Parishioners might get too attached to services led by the Bishop!

NJW
NJW
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

For several years there have been training sessions – resourced by Church House – on using digital resources. I went to one that contained useful advice on appropriate uses in rural churches. The resource pages that were lined with earlier coronavirus advice/instructions proved very useful in streaming live from a church with no internet connection. All we had to do was look at the advice sent from Church House…

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago

All the complicated advice about prayer in church just needs to be replaced with two simple sentences: “Lock the church doors and pray at home. God is with you there.”

Canon Dr Graham Blyth
Canon Dr Graham Blyth
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

For some of us the church building remains the focus, while we are still able to make it available daily. Yes it was strange sitting there this Sunday morning with no active worship going on, but it was curiously soothing as well as being quite sad. Four other people called in within the hour. During the week those shoppers and visitors that remain will pop in also. I don’t take issue with the acknowledgment that God is in the hardware; but neglected buildings need TLC too. Where parishes don’t have the technical wherewithal, that remains important. I believe it is… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago

‘Where parishes don’t have the technical wherewithal…’

Sorry, but this is making a mountain out of a molehill. All you need is an iPad leaning on a stack of books. And if you don’t know how to do it, ask a grandchild, or send out a message to parishioners.

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
5 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

We’ve been audio recording sermons for awhile. This past Sunday we video recorded the gospel and the sermon using a mobile phone. The sound and visuals were excellent. You don’t even need an iPad.

Susannah Clark
5 months ago

Just a thought, because I have no idea about other people’s theology: If each household prepared bread and wine at home, and the priest streamed a blessing on the bread and wine prepared in faith in our fellowship in Jesus Christ, would God not bless and sanctify those elements from a distance? Does distance blessing stop the power of God? Does the priest have to be within a metre of the bread and wine? Why not within five miles? Of course, because God works through the physical and tangible (including us) it may seem preferable for the cup of wine… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

I think the argument would be specificity. It is unclear what bread and wine the celebrant was trying to bless. S/he wouldn’t know so would it it be all bread and wine within reach of the stream including a bottle sat on the wine rack at the back of the room of some viewer to drink later, or several bread out on the kitchen counter because there has just been a delivery? And would it include the household of everyone watching, including some intending only to then profane the sacrament? So, while I agree that distance cannot limit a blessing… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

It’s marvellous that people are (I assume) taking this so seriously. I used to wonder if the bread in the supermarket next door was being consecrated as well as that on the corporal. I think it must have been. Even Lidl.

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I think God can figure out which bits of bread and wine need to be consecrated. Having said that, I’m not against Kate’s solution either.

Susannah Clark
5 months ago

To put this advice in context, and to concentrate our minds on why we urgently need to avoid physical contact at this time, take a look at this chart comparing the rate of deaths in Italy with the rate of deaths in the UK. We are 14 days behind them, but matching almost exactly the same rate of deaths each day: http://www.susannah.org.uk/covid19march2020.jpg As of today we exactly match the number of deaths in Italy a fortnight ago. On this basis I’m sorry to say it looks like we may have had 1000 deaths in the UK by Thursday (five days’… Read more »

Just Sayin
Just Sayin
5 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Susannah I agree, context is all. Yes I am sad not to be sharing Communion with anyone for now but I think I will manage. The same cannot be guaranteed for many where I live and serve; among the most deprived parishes in the C of E, our Food Bank is closed, out of food. We are trying hard to get round this in spite of the difficulties by working directly with a major supermarket, won’t know until Monday if it will come off, just praying it will. Families, especially the most vulnerable of which their are many, were already… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
5 months ago

I am looking for somewhere to say congratulations and thank you to all involved in providing the extraordinary range of responses and resources on offer these last few days following the shut down on public worship. It has felt so very heartening in such challenging times. There has clearly been an enormous amount of hard work, impressive imaginative, new initiatives and the mastering of new technology – all in a very short space of time. As a receiver rather than giver in this context I am very grateful. I hope many others have felt as I have – cared for… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago
Reply to  David Runcorn

Thank you David. We’re all working hard at the edge of our comfort zone, and it means so much when people recognize that and acknowledge it. Bless you, brother.

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago

Email this morning from a non-attending bellringer asking me (retired now) to pass on her contacts to the churches saying that she would be happy to fetch and carry for the at risk and isolated. Later, my dog-walking wife saw two clerics and two lay people hanging around church after saying “prayers”. I can’t help wondering which is more use.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
5 months ago

Surely both are? Unless you do not believe in “praying”?

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
5 months ago
Reply to  David Runcorn

What Stanley was saying was to do with unnecessary social contact less than two metres apart. Going out with the dog seems fine, according to scientific advice, as long as you give all humans a wide berth and wash your hands thoroughly on return.

T Pott
T Pott
5 months ago

Out of the two of you, you by staying in and reading your emails, rather than your wife going out with or without a dog.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
5 months ago

Rod, I have shared these collects with my house group for their prayer at home, and they were very helpful. Thank you.

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