Thinking Anglicans

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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Father Ron Smith
Guest

Our thoughts and prayers are with all our relations and friends in the U.K. at this time of trial for all of us. Having in mind your extreme situation of lockdown, this is to let you know that we, in Aotearoa/New Zealand will, as of midnight tonight, also be in lockdown. It has been quite salutary to have to miss out on Church attendance – both on Sundays and for weekday Masses – but we are already availing ourselves of the opportunity to log into the various podcasts being provided, by both local and overseas sources to continue being the… Read more »

Charles K
Guest
Charles K

Thank you! That’s what I want to read on here. Wise, selfless, pragmatic, graceful. NZ and Australia is ahead of us on the clock and in so many other ways. You are in our prayers too.

Susannah Clark
Guest

“We will all sadly miss the stimulation of corporate worship at Holy Week and Easter. However, think of the joy and relief we will have at the resumption of worship in common.”

This.

Thank you, Father Ron.

Fr Martin Hislop
Guest

This is NOT conforming to the specific Govt direction that places of worship should stay open for solitary prayer.

John S
Guest
John S

The relevant wording from the official government document https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/874732/230320_-_Revised_guidance_note_-_finalVF.pdf seems to be:

“Must remain closed:

Places of worship for services

Exceptions:

Funerals following the social distancing
guidance; places of worship should remain
open for solitary prayer.
Live streaming of a service without
audience would be permissible.”

That exception for remaining open for solitary prayer seems to me just to sow further confusion when we thought we had reached clarity.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

I agree about the confusion/mixed message. A case of one department of Government not co-ordinating with others. Boris Johnson’s broadcast statement was clearly saying that places of worship must ‘close’, and that is the message put out by our archbishops (just published as a link on the C of E Daily Media Digest.) Moreover, the MHCLG Guidance note states (under ‘Exceptions’) that places of worship ‘should’ (not just ‘can’) remain open for solitary prayer. On the other hand, going to the local church to pray is not one of the four permissible reasons for leaving one’s home, and the Archbishops’… Read more »

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

I read the situation in that way, David, but I think we need urgent clarification about this. Most parish clergy (I think) just want clear instructions which we’re happy to follow! That said I’ve considerable sympathy with both the Government and the diocesan / national authorities who must be struggling hugely with how to translate general principles into specific guidance and exceptions.

Stevie Gamble
Guest
Stevie Gamble

There have been a fair number of corrections to the advice being put out; I very much doubt that the ‘solitary prayer’ bit has been cleared at high level. Presumably someone in the lower echelons thought it looked good and hasn’t applied their brains to the consequences; unless and until ‘going to church/synagogue/temple/mosque for solitary prayer’ becomes an approved journey I doubt that the police would be sympathetic.

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

Why on earth do people need to have an open Church to say their prayers? This is just being argumentative and awkward looking for loopholes to break the rules.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Absolutely agree, Father David.

David POCKLINGTON
Guest

Cardinal Nichols’ statement, issued on 24 March, clarifies confusion in the guidance published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government regarding the opening of churches. This stated, erroneously, that “places of worship should remain open for solitary prayer”; the Bishops’ Conference has clarified that churches must close and remain closed.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

While it is helpful to learn via a post on the RC Diocese of Westminster website that “a senior civil servant’ (unnamed) has admitted that “they just had not thought through the issues of infection and security of churches” and had “made a mistake”, the instruction in the post (that churches are to close with immediate effect and to remain closed until further notice) relates only to churches in the Diocese of Westminster. At the time of writing this comment (15.04 on 24 March) the answer to the FAQ on the C of E website still stated: “Churches should be… Read more »

Stevie Gamble
Guest
Stevie Gamble

Thank you for this, Simon. I hope that the Church of England gets its act together urgently; lives are being put at risk.

Kate
Guest
Kate

With so many Church of England ordained priests and bishops saying that there is no need to go to church to pray and that worship is entirely effective at home watching a video stream or broadcast, does the Church of England have a future? By the time the restrictions are lifted, it will have spent several months telling people that churches are unnecessary.

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

Not at all. The increased sharing in worship, albeit electronically, is actually strengthening the church. And we will feel the need to meet physically when this is all over.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Everyone I’ve talked to in our parish in western Canada is (a) really grateful for the rather amateurish online stuff we’ve been doing, but (b) really, really missing actually being together. Oh, and that thing about finances? 61% of our income in February came from Pre-Authorized Giving, and I know of at least two people who have asked to join PAG since we streamed Sunday’s service.

No, I will not worry. I will do everything I can to keep our faith community together, and leave the rest in God’s hands.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

That is the big question. My pastoral experience is that once people have lost the habit of regular attendance, they don’t come back. Meanwhile, revenue plummets, reserves are plundered, and bankruptcy sprints ever closer. Froghole has written in more detail on this here and elsewhere. He cites the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian not Episcopal) and mentions the closure of Brechin cathedral. If you look up the CoS’s “Radical Action Plan” (https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/about-us/radical-action-plan) you can read how it is spinned as something positive. Just like the CoE.

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

The same could apply to cinemas, theatres and football matches. All unnecessary. But I suspect like Churches, they’ll be open for business when the pandemic is over

Stevie Gamble
Guest
Stevie Gamble

You might just as well enquire whether the Catholic Church has a future; Pope Francis certainly thinks so, despite adhering to the total lockdown in Italy and beyond. I am delighted to see that the Archbishop of Canterbury is joining in the Lord’s Prayer tomorrow at the invitation of the Pope; Christians of all denominations can pray together though we are in separate places. Is our faith so feeble that it will only survive if we huddle together in churches as we wait for somebody to collect the corpses? Or do you expect the Army to ferry protective kit to… Read more »

Canon Dr Graham Blyth
Guest
Canon Dr Graham Blyth

Well said Kate. The rush to be ‘different church’ is already resulting in a redefinition which will make churches and other ‘sacred spaces’ quickly redundant if we are not careful. Once these are jettisoned in place of ‘virtual church’ there is really no need for any further – and costly – maintenance of our buildings. Many clergy will embrace this with eager enthusiasm as the way forward. Witnessing the desolation my congregation are feeling at the moment at the loss of access to their spiritual home, I think there will be enormous losses in cutting loose from the riches of… Read more »

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

I agree that church buildings should be closed for the time being; public health should trump every other consideration, especially in view of the manner in which this virus can be communicated and its tendency to linger on hard surfaces for several days. However, Kate raises a valid point: if ‘church’ can be done at home or privately (as indeed it can after a fashion), what is the point of the buildings? As everyone knows, they are expensive, consume vast amounts of time and energy, and are essentially adiaphora. This raises a further problem: if ‘church’ can be ‘reimagined’ on… Read more »

Stevie Gamble
Guest
Stevie Gamble

I’m fairly sure that Francis grasps that the Roman Catholic Church extends far beyond the borders of Italy: around 1.2 billion people belong to it, and many are even more threatened than those in Europe by the virus because being poor is an underlying condition which makes the virus more likely to kill people. At some point it may finally dawn upon people that a church which prioritises its own finances over the wellbeing of the people it purports to serve is unlikely to attract new recruits to make up for the ones who have died. I’m not holding my… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

They are not saying that at all. We are all having to adapt to a situation where, for a time, acute public health issues make it dangerous to have such buildings open. I know you disagree with this but please don’t distort the reasons. I would agree that there will be a challenge, on the other side of this emergency (for that is what it is) to renew the ‘habit’ of public worship – at least for some. But what if folk came back with a renewed vision of God’s presence in home and daily life. That would be wonderful.… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Sorry – this was a response to Kate (and perhaps Canon Blyth) – not sure why it appeared down the list

Richard
Guest
Richard

With people saying that laymen can celebrate the Eucharist at home, or have the bread and wine consecrated via streaming, are we suggesting that there is no need for ordained priests or for church?

Susannah Clark
Guest

I believe that bread and wine can be consecrated – in faith – from a distance, and a streaming service would be great. That way, everyone in the present circumstances might receive eucharist in their own homes, which I believe would be pleasing to God who (let’s face it) is not unable to bless the elements, whether the priest is standing half a metre away or 2 kilometers. However I also believe there is every need for priests, at all times in the lives of our communities, but especially at this time. As for the Church, which may be expressed… Read more »

Rev'd Peter Xye
Guest
Rev'd Peter Xye

I am saddened that the routine of prayer and Eucharist in our Church is being interrupted in this way. While I choose to comply with the Archbishop’s “instructions” as a Freehold vicar in the C of E I question their legality. I have not sworn obedience to them, my own Bishop has issued no instructions. If she did I would struggle to the “legality” of them as there is no law to back it all up. I obviously wish to comply with every measure the Govt puts in place to combat the virus. Not being allowed in a church to… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

It’s not just about social distancing. Tests have shown that this virus can survive on hard surfaces for several days. Therefore everyone who goes into church and may be carrying the virus potentially infects those using the building after them. Some of those who have been going into your church to pray may, sadly, already have passed on Covid-19 in this way.

The question isn’t about legality, but about loving others by not infecting them with coronavirus.