Thinking Anglicans

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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Charles Read
Charles Read
5 months ago

There might be a bit of a clearer steer that, when things get more back to normal, memorial services will be a good way to help people attend a service when they could not attend the funeral.

J Kirby
J Kirby
5 months ago

So I can go to the supermarket, I can do my daily exercise, I can volunteer to help in the NHS, I can watch thousands of people going to work in schools, hospitals, many shops, trains and buses, but I can’t go 20 seconds next door to pray or live-stream worship which has been giving parishioners such comfort as they see worship going on in the place they love? This stuff about solidarity is bogus. This is a shameful face-saving exercise by petty and incompetent bishops who don’t know how to get out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves… Read more »

David J
David J
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

If it’s about solidarity, then one must ask will the bishops and archbishops be refraining from use of their own chapels?

Father Ron Smith
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

Dear J Kirby. This current restriction is not only about us, the clergy. It is also meant to protect the lives of others – by being in solidarity with them in their present, enforced, isolation. If we, the clergy, cannot find consolation without the props of a church building and its familiar appurtenances, then how can we ever convince others that “God is a Spirit, and those who worship God, worship God in spirit and in truth”. This is either The Truth or a fantasy. The time will come when we can worship together in actual, familiar places. In the… Read more »

John S
John S
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

Sadly, I agree. The way the “solidarity” argument has now been introduced, not, as far as I can recall, having been advanced before, smacks of a post hoc attempt to find justification for a mistaken decision. We’ve all done it in our own lives enough times, heaven knows.

Kate
Kate
5 months ago

The Reflection is sweet. Nicely done, although I am surprised it doesn’t include resources like a link to a video of the Archbishop of Canterbury reading Psalm 23 etc.

The virtual candle (linked from the reflection) is beyond naff, however.

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
5 months ago

The new not so normal requires the Church to turn itself inside out, and I note that many people, particularly some clergy, are finding that very uncomfortable. Unless they live stream regularly, they don’t feel they have a role in this crisis. But actually they have a once in a generation new role. The status quo ante (doing the same old stuff again behind church walls for the faithful few) is longed for so, with our same dwindling congregations (average age at best 65). Why does it matter where live streamed worship is recorded? And why all this agony as… Read more »

american piskie
american piskie
5 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

“Why aren’t we speaking through our virtual worship to the nation? It continues to be all so churchy.”

If and when we emerge from the crisis this will be where an analysis of how the Church of England failed must begin. And perhaps a comparison will be made of the extraordinarily prolix and verbose religious resources provided by the C of E with the real religion of the folk: expressing solidarity and support by communal applause. (My first thought a couple of evenings ago was: “this is secular prayer”.)

J Kirby
J Kirby
5 months ago

Father Ron – as I wrote in another post, this isn’t a theological issue. The upset and anger among clergy has been caused by the gratuitous nature of the Archbishops’ advice. It is not in line with govt regulations, and it is manifestly absurd. The local vicar can take his daily exercise right past the church, but not go inside. He can go to the supermarket, volunteer with the NHS, help run foodbanks and run errands for vulnerable members of his congregation. But he can’t go into his church alone to offer prayer and live-stream worship in a way that… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

I agree with almost everything you say, J Kirby, but I don’t think it is so easy to say that there isn’t a theological issue at stake. This is how the Church of England describes what we believe about the Eucharist: https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/what-we-believe/eucharist “The Eucharist (also known as Holy Communion, the Mass, or the Lord’s Supper), can take many different forms across the Church of England, and it may be understood by Christians in different ways, but at the heart of the celebration there is always a special prayer of thanksgiving, or ‘Eucharistic Prayer’ (eucharistein means ‘to give thanks’ in Greek).… Read more »

J Kirby
J Kirby
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Dear Kate – I don’t deny that there is a theological dimension, as you so eruditely articulate. My point is that that major issue at stake here, at least for me, is that the advice is unwarranted and gratuitous. It serves no public health purpose, but is simply about the bishops being determined not to reverse their earlier advice in the light of clear, black and white govt regulations in the Coronavirus Bill (now Act I believe). This is what is causing anger. If there was a genuine public health issue at stake, I’m sure no one would object –… Read more »

Kate
Kate
5 months ago

As I have said before, if the church promotes the view that live streaming a service from a home is as efficacious as streaming it from a church and altar, that clearly has long term ramifications for the future of the church estate. If the Church of England believes that consecrated buildings and altars retain a special function, then the absolute prohibition on live streaming from church is clearly wrong. The reason, I think, that the guidance seems confused is that the archbishops are trying hard to sit on that fence. So they can’t justify their guidance by actually saying… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
5 months ago
Reply to  Kate

In these times, when we find ourselves singing the Lord’s song in a strange land, we should be careful not to let the best become the enemy of the good.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
5 months ago

Speaking from the other side of the pond, I really do not understand the prohibition on live-streaming worship from inside the church. Our rector has been doing morning prayer in just this way on the past two Sundays and will be doing it again tomorrow. And our church remains open during any time when the rector or other staff is present for anyone to come and pray privately, in ones or twos, with appropriate social distancing. Closing the building entirely suggests there is no comfort in being in familiar places for such practice.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
5 months ago

I recognise there is a difficult balance to get right. But regarding funerals at crematoria and cemeteries, I am wondering about the lack of flexibility for those who have no spouse or partner, parents or children (at least still alive or with whom we are in contact) and whose closest family are friends, siblings and/or nieces/nephews? This applies, for instance, to quite a few of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, who have outlived partners and parents etc. In such instances, could up to two mourners be permitted at the discretion of the minister, while maintaining a physical… Read more »

RPNewark
RPNewark
5 months ago
Reply to  Savi Hensman

As someone in my mid-70s with under-lying health issues, I have been thinking about this. My immediate family are roughly 160 miles north and 400 miles south-west (including either a ferry crossing or a flight. In each household there is a person who has serious underlying health issues. I’m instructing them that they are not to arrange a funeral service should I succumb during this emergency. My mortal remains are of no importance at all. My immortal soul will already be in heaven. The funeral director will be instructed to deliver my coffined corpse to the side-door of the crematorium… Read more »

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
5 months ago
Reply to  RPNewark

Having also read about the difficulties of pared-down funerals (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/28/funerals-coronavirus-relatives-coffins-families), I can see the value of not having a funeral in some instances (especially if this is led by a ‘duty’ minister at a crematorium doing a succession of 15-minute services with no mourners) but instead an online or later memorial service or simple ceremony. However I wondered whether the lack of reference to such options by Church of England leaders might be because, as deaths rise, ministers might not have time to conduct personalised services for more than a few people, even when the ‘new normal’ is in place?

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago

It seems there are a few Tetchy Anglicans. One of the problems with written communication is that twinkles in the eye go unseen. I’ve noticed that others, presumably as a result of their own prejudices and experience, read into my words things that are quite simply not there. Fair enough, we’re human, but let’s be generous with one another. Here are some issues that puzzle me. I’m fascinated by the discussion on “spiritual” communion. I was 6 or 7 during the Asian flu pandemic of 1957, and I can’t remember much. I can remember diphtheria and polio not long after,… Read more »

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
5 months ago

I so agree with Stanley; good to have perspective. Mortality remains at 100%. Condolences and love.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
5 months ago

Sadly (and I’m sorry if I sound tetchy) but I have to agree with those who think that yesterday’s statement by the Archbishops was a shameful attempt to justify their earlier statements which went much further than the government required them to, and which are already doing unnecessary damage to the anxious flock they are supposed to be caring for, and will do a great deal more as this crisis drags on and on, with the only exit strategy being a vaccine. It was also a piece of ‘virtue signalling’ to the government, understandable in other circumstances given the barrage… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

I don’t know how up to date this information is, but the BBC indicated that a vaccine was not expected to be ready until possibly the middle of next year. Some of the comments on this thread, and the previous one, don’t seem to have any understanding of the seriousness of this crisis. The further statistics coming in daily, both for this country and worldwide, are cause for alarm. We were urged by the NHS Medical Director today to be vigilant and cooperative, and not to be complacent. Whether or not people agree with them, the Archbishops do have this… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago

The polio vaccine took DECADES to develop. Things have moved on since then with advances in technology and knowledge, but a year until a corona vaccine is not unrealistic.

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
5 months ago

It is particularly dispiriting for those of us with close relatives in the frontline of this war to see the almost complete absence of any concern both for those suffering and those caring for those suffering. I am deeply grateful for your good sense and your compassion.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
5 months ago

It is precisely because I think I do understand just how serious this crisis is, and how very long it is likely to last, that I think that the Archbishops’ advice and direction is so misguided. They are not experts in health and their job is to follow the clear directions from the government (who do have access to the best health advice) and not to go beyond it for their own reasons. The government is not proscribing priests from live-streaming themselves worshipping alone in their own churches, but the Archbishops are. What harm can it possibly do for a… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

I made the suggestion some weeks ago, at the earliest stage of this crisis, that the BBC or ITV (or both) could televise religious services (not necessarily just C of E) for the benefit of viewers of different religious persuasions, or none. A potentially ecumenical opportunity. The US Catholic television network EWTN (accessible from Sky channel 588 and possibly elsewhere) broadcasts services and other religious programmes 24/7 to 40 countries. These include weekly services from Nazareth and Lourdes as well as a daily Mass (repeated twice) from the US and sometimes from Rome. Currently there are daily services centred on… Read more »

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
5 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

My daughter is a consultant physician with dual specialisations in Rheumatology and General Internal Medicine working in an Acute Medical Unit, at the very tip of the sharp end, dealing each day with people suffering from a wide range of life threatening conditions including Covid-19. She and her colleagues have no doubt whatsoever that absolute isolation of everyone outside those providing vital services is the only way that gives us any hope of averting absolutely catastrophic consequences. I am very, very tired of reading comments by people with no medical qualifications of any kind asserting the contrary because, as far… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
5 months ago
Reply to  Stevie Gamble

I sympathise hugely Stevie. Unfortunately people don’t like it when issues are clouded by facts.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

This comment is not intended to be controversial, but just as a statement of fact worth bearing in mind, that in the order of precedence after the Royal family the Archbishop of Canterbury is first, followed by the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of York and the Prime Minister – in that order.

J Kirby
J Kirby
5 months ago

Stevie Gamble – I’m sorry Stevie, but you, like many others who are trying so desperately to have the Archbishops’ backs, are missing the point. No one is denying the seriousness of the situation – hence why as far as I know not a single priest objected to the suspension of public worship. The point is that this advice from the Archbishops will not stop anyone getting the virus. I know two priests who don’t even have to go out the front door to go to church – the vicarage is physically connected. Yet they are not allowed to enter… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

May I suggest we put this argument on hold and revisit it in one week’s time to see whether the Government or the Church have changed their respective rules. Meanwhile, is it possible for people to refrain from abusing the Archbishops by imputing their integrity?

Just another gentle reminder. They are the joint-Presidents of General Synod and, after Her Majesty the Queen, occupy the two most senior positions of the Church of England. Inevitably, only they, and not Diocesans, can speak for the national church.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago

Sorry, I did of course mean impugning – not imputing – their integrity.

Susannah Clark
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

I don’t think Stevie is missing the point at all. Our priority, whether Christians or non-Christians, is reduction of this terrible virus and the remorseless rise in deaths. To address this, we need national solidarity. People in all walks of life are staying at home, many of them in dire financial straits. People’s businesses have been closed down, and they can’t open their shops. ALL non-essential work/travel/locations are being closed down. The archbishops’ directive is consistent with that. Not only that, it shows solidarity. It signals that the Church is taking the same ‘hit’ as the rest of the public.… Read more »

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
5 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Wonderfully put, Susannah. Thank you!

Tim Chesterton
5 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Well said, Susannah.

J Kirby
J Kirby
5 months ago

I’m sorry Rowland, but they can’t hide behind their grand titles to avoid scrutiny. They’ve handled this appallingly badly when it was in fact a very simple thing to do – just follow the government’s advice.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

I really don’t see that further discussion is serving any good purpose. You have made your displeasure clear.
Stanley Monkhouse, Stevie Gamble and Susannah Clark have all given very cogent reasons to support the Church’s present stance which is essentially humanitarian and Christian, and they all write with either personal or a close family medical background.

J Kirby
J Kirby
5 months ago

Studiously avoiding the point about medically informed Government guidance and the example of the Bishop of London. Much better to take a personal anecdote instead! From today’s Telegraph: “So what will historians say? They might conclude that while millions of Christians responded heroically, the Church establishment retreated into health and safety, not only because they wanted to do no harm but because Western society is post-religious, science has won, doctors are the new priests and the Church is not sure what to say or if anyone is even listening. They are wrong. This is a fight for life and many… Read more »

brcw2
brcw2
5 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

“This is a fight for life and many of us believe it necessitates prayer. The churches should reopen.”
This would be a far more powerful argument if the second sentence were in any way related to the first, but it doesn’t follow in the slightest – at least not if you have any interest in following Jesus’ directions on how to pray. He seemed to manage ok with praying alone in a variety of places, and with directing others to do likewise.

David Richards
David Richards
5 months ago

“…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.” From which school of cavalier theology did that statement come? It would make a very good exam question, especially with reference to the work of Margaret Barker, Walter Brueggemann and Von Balthazar! I would find the archbishops and their authoritarian line more convincing if I actually believed they were capable of presenting a coherent reason for their stance. To date, their position bears neither theological nor legal scrutiny. By the way, I… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
5 months ago
Reply to  David Richards

Possibly theology guided by that cavalier writer Walter Brueggemann? “There is no one single or normative model of church life. It is dangerous and distorting for the church to opt for an absolutist model that it insists upon in every circumstance. Moreover, we are more prone to engage in such reductionism, if we do not keep alive a conversation concerning competing and conflicting models. Or to put it positively, models of the church must not be dictated by cultural reality, but they must be voiced and practiced in ways that take careful account of the particular time and circumstance into… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
5 months ago
Reply to  David Richards

People are dying and more will die and I accept the Archbishops’ ban. Looking too far into motive is where either hell or madness lie. That said, “the church is, as we all know, us, the people of God, not our buildings” though certainly true on one level, is getting a touch too close to saying, as I heard a video priest say on Sunday, “God does not live in our buildings but in the hearts of believers.” Can it not be both/and? The incarnational/sacramental principle begins with the particular and moves towards the universal; we see Christ in the… Read more »

John S
John S
5 months ago

I seem to recall one of the Don Camillo stories where the village floods, and everyone rallies round to support the displaced villagers, and as an able-bodied man, everyone expects Don Camillo to muck in. But he decides to stay in his flooded and isolated church, and to celebrate Mass, and the villagers get more comfort from hearing the bell over the flood waters and from knowing that Mass is being said than they would have done from his practical help.

But that is only a story….

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
5 months ago
Reply to  John S

Underneath the humour, there is a deep spirituality to many of the Don Camillo stories. The author Giovanni Guareschi was actually imprisoned for his writing, opposing attacks on the Church in immediately post-WW II Italy.

That particular story is, I think the most beautiful; in it Don Camillo also leaves his presbytery and goes by rowing boat to give last rites and to pray all night with a dying old man. He also rescues the old man’s orphaned granddaughter whom the rest of the family want to ‘put away’ in an institution. Only a story, but a very moving one.

J Kirby
J Kirby
5 months ago

The whole thing is an ideological Protestant attack on the Church. It’s to soften us up for when they make the final push towards their lay-led house church utopia.

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