Thinking Anglicans

Churches allowed to open for individual prayer

Updated to add links to risk assessment template, and to add more media reports

The UK Government made an announcement, which was reported in the media (see below) late on Saturday evening, 6 June.
The full text of this, dated Sunday 7 June, can be found here: Places of worship to re-open for individual prayer.

The Church of England issued this on Saturday evening: Statement on individual prayer in churches.

On Friday morning, 5 June, the Church of England had issued updated guidance on a number of aspects of worship in church buildings, all of which can be found here.  That included COVID-19 Advice on Individual Prayer by Members of the public in Church Buildings (dated 3 June) and also this parish risk assessment template (Version 1.6 dated 22 May, Word file, four pages, here is a PDF version of the template). NB this is now superseded, see 9 June article.

Initial media reports:

BBC Coronavirus: Places of worship to reopen for private prayer and later Coronavirus: Calls for places of worship to reopen in Wales

Guardian Limited re-opening of places of worship in England planned for 15 June (original headline’s erroneous reference to UK now corrected)
and later Religious leaders split over reopening places of worship in England

Church Times Churches may open for private individual prayer from 15 June

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Adrian
Adrian
28 days ago

I dislike journalistic headlines. The BBC one is a case in point. Now they ARE TO OPEN for private prayer, rather than now they are not forbidden to open for private prayer. Yes those who have responsibilities as controllers of buildings have a duty of care for themselves, employees, contractors and members of the public. Even if I can get a PCC to meet virtually without disenfranchising some of the elderly or technophobic, how can I get them to agree the risk assessment process, to conduct it, and to do all the cleaning and stewarding. It would be less disingenuous… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

Precisely, Adrian. I read the “advice” concerning what needs to be done in order to enable opening: stewarding; distancing; cleaning of surfaces, switches, handles, lecterns, fonts, doors and more. Who will do all this in a church with ASA of under 30 most of whom are elderly? Of my former three churches, I could just about see one of them being open IF people from the other two helped with these tasks. Regrettably, that is unlikely.

Paul
Paul
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

Is it not possible just to unlock the door?

Kate
Kate
28 days ago
Reply to  Paul

“Is it not possible just to unlock the door?”

Not after that awful communication from the Bishop of London. If any problems arise the diocesan response is likely to be “Why didn’t you do a plan and risk assessment, as advised?” In Adrian’s position I wouldn’t be rushing to open the church either and that is terribly, terribly sad.

Kate
Kate
28 days ago
Reply to  Adrian

Adrian, I think this document is disingenuous and somewhat unfair on incumbents. In previous communications, even though not allowed, to the bishops told incumbents what they must not do. Now, instead of a clear communication when it comes to re-opening the focus moves entirely to total local discretion while highlighting that the local parish is responsible for any and all risks involved. It is what in corporate vernacular is often called “an ass-covering memo”. My respect for the Bishop of London has never been high but this seems tawdry even by recent standards. A far better communication would be “I… Read more »

David Keen
David Keen
28 days ago

Well that was annoying, discovering through the comments feed during our streamed worship that our church was supposed to be opening a week on Monday. Thanks Boris. The timing seems almost designed to prevent good communication.

Kate
Kate
28 days ago

“Throughout this crisis churches have been serving their communities in a range of practical ways but this announcement recognises that the buildings themselves are important sacred spaces for people. We also remember all at this time who mourn the loss of a loved one who died during the crisis and recognise that this is a fragile time in the prevention of the spread of this virus.” True. But in saying it now the Bishop of London is highlighting that she understands these fundamental points which makes their absence from earlier communications even less excusable. It wasn’t a failure to understand… Read more »

Kate
Kate
28 days ago

The draft risk assessment template is much more general than the advice now issued and is pretty useless.

John Wallace
John Wallace
28 days ago
Reply to  Kate

Why can’t bishops leave decisions to incumbents and churchwardens who know their buildings, know their congregations and know their parishes? They are just mirroring the top-down incompetence of this pathetic government which ignores the years of knowledge and experience within Local Authority Public Health Directors and instead outsources to companies of proven incompetence like Serco? We are supposed to be ‘episcopally led’ instead we are being dictated to in a paternalistic ‘Father (or Mother) knows best’ way. I despair!!

SKT
SKT
27 days ago
Reply to  John Wallace

I could not agree more John and Kate! This is beyond annoying.

Mark Bennet
Mark Bennet
28 days ago

We are likely to open first by appointment (details advertised – how to call and make an appointment) than generally – so, for example, the parishioner who wants to light a candle on the anniversary of his wife’s death can do that. That is relatively easy to risk assess and manage. We will be able to manage opening for a period each day, I think, once we have got used to procedures etc and made a route through the church from one door to another. I am more concerned about weddings than private prayer, on the whole. And where I… Read more »

Charles Read
28 days ago

I don’t think you can have it both ways. Previous instructions were criticised for telling incumbents what to do and it was suggested that this was bishops exceeding their authority. Now the criticism is that these guidelines from the bishops are guidelines and we want instructions! I think the bishops have got the message. Decisions on reopening will need to be taken locally because no two situations are the same. Advice is being offered. The government’s timing and mode of releasing the news is pretty poor but can we not rejoice in this chance to reopen at least some buildings… Read more »

Father David
27 days ago

For weeks and weeks now we have been told that the projected date to reopen the doors of churches and places of worship was 4th July – coincidentally Indepedence Day in the currently seriously disrupted USA. Now, completely out of the blue, we are told that the date has been brought forward to 15th June which gives us only a single week to prepare!

William
William
27 days ago
Reply to  Father David

You don’t have to open your church. But those of us who have been preparing for this moment for some time are absolutely delighted that we have been given the possibility.

Father David
27 days ago
Reply to  William

We are going to open at the beginning of July in accordance with the original lifting date.
At present there is much scaffolding at the back of the church which is due to be removed this week but thereafter the church will need a deep clean. I too am delighted that churches can reopen for private prayer but more notice than a week would have been greatly appreciated. I now look forward to the return of corporate worship although I fear this may well be some way off!

Charles Read
Charles Read
27 days ago
Reply to  Father David

4th July has been the date for public worship restarting (if local churches think they can). We knew opening for private prayer would come first but had no date. The bishops have been making the case that if shops can open, so can churches (for private prayer). I am very happy to criticise bishops where appropriate but on this occasion they seem to me to have served the church and our communities well by pressing the case. The timing of the announcement was not theirs but the government’s.

Confused Sussex
Confused Sussex
27 days ago

I agree that the instructions are problematic for most churches. However the question is are we happy to minimise the chance of spreading the virus or not?

Stanley Monkhouse
27 days ago

Are we “happy to minimise the chance of spreading the virus or not?” Can I caution against putting too much faith in what people think about minimising spread? I’m a medic with a doctorate in cell and tissue biology. I’ve examined higher degree theses in the biological sciences. Science may be “pure” but scientists most certainly are not. The public are mistaken to put too much trust in “science”, for what they regard as “science” is actually science as told by scientists. In the biological disciplines there are too many variables (equipment, chemicals, environment, technique etc), and scientists are subject to… Read more »

Last edited 27 days ago by Stanley Monkhouse
Froghole
Froghole
27 days ago

Many thanks, Stanley!
 
Although I am no fan of successive Ridleys, I find your remarks intriguing, especially in the context of the much-vexed ‘we’ve-had-quite-enough-of-experts’ debate. Whilst I defer instinctively – and often ignorantly – to experts, whether self-proclaimed or otherwise, I am sometimes reminded of the tart remark made by the late Belgian Sinologist Simon Leys in an infamous and savage TLS review (6 March 1981) of a biography of Mao by the Australian scholar Ross Terrill: that ‘What a successful China Expert needs, first and foremost, is expertise at being an Expert’.

Confused Sussex
Confused Sussex
27 days ago

I do not question your qualifications which are far better than mine and I understand the point you are making about the inability of science to often provide definitive advice in this as in other areas. My comments were really addressed at those who appear to be unwilling to accept that churches have a duty of care to those who enter their buildings and view carrying out some form of risk assessment and and then acting upon it to an unecessary burden.

NJW
NJW
27 days ago

I’m frankly boggled at some of the reactions. I may be in a bubble, but alongside the other work of the parish (prayer, worship and service to others) we have been longing for the time when we are able (even in a limited way) to allow people back into the sacred spaces that are our church buildings.   In diocesan communications last week were were told that guidance was being prepared at speed to be available on Friday, and that an announcement was likely to appear at some point – but possibly with little or no notice from the government.… Read more »

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
27 days ago

At last a comment in the real world. Having thought ahead, knowing the day would come when our ssacred spaces could welcome our folk back home.
NJW speks good sense, and in my opinion not in a bubble, but the real world.
Lets hear from more priests of a like mind, moving forward in Faith.
 
Fr John Emlyn

Alison Baker
Alison Baker
27 days ago

Can I offer some pointers that might be useful from Europe?   Here, churches never closed for private prayer. The doors were simply opened and things that might get handled (service books, Bibles etc) were removed. Holy water stoups were emptied. Plenty of gel was left at the entrances and exits (most churches had a ‘one way system’). The only handling item that was available was candles – and people were lighting plenty of them (and being encouraged by signage to use gel afterwards). It has worked brilliantly. In the part of Paris where I live, people have been free… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
27 days ago
Reply to  Alison Baker

Many thanks for this. I am very glad that people are making comparisons with what has been going on in Europe; I have felt this seemed to be a major oversight by policymakers here.   Indeed, for the last nine or ten weeks most of the many services I have watched have been livestreamed from churches on the continent. These have mostly been from France, and have generally been of very creditable quality. Relatively fewer livestreamed services are now available in France precisely because they have gone back to normal over the last two Sundays, and they are eliminating livestreams… Read more »

Paul
Paul
27 days ago
Reply to  Alison Baker

It is worth reading the whole of Alison Baker’s comment in full. The punch line is in the last sentence.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
27 days ago
Reply to  Alison Baker

I can echo your final sentence. As a fairly regular visitor to Leeds before ‘lockdown’, I have almost invariably gone to St Anne’s Catholic Cathedral for an hour or so, lighting a candle for my late wife and other relatives, and usually staying for the recitation of the Rosary at noon. Before that, there is total silence apart from the occasional sound of a coin being donated. I have come to know and recognise some of the local faithful using their church exactly as you describe. This is a house of prayer and, as an Anglican, I value it greatly.… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
27 days ago
Reply to  Alison Baker

Many thanks indeed for this! I am very glad that people are making comparisons with what has been going on elsewhere in Europe. I have felt the apparent neglect of the experience of churches in other European countries seems to have been a major oversight by policymakers here.   Indeed, for the last nine or ten weeks most of the many services I have watched have been livestreamed from churches on the continent. These have mostly been from France, and have generally been of very creditable quality. Relatively fewer livestreamed services are now available in France precisely because they have… Read more »

Kate
Kate
26 days ago
Reply to  Alison Baker

Well said, Alison.

I would add that the biggest threat to social distancing may in some cases be the stewards themselves.

T Pott
T Pott
26 days ago

The risk assessment advises checking for animal waste. If there is a large steaming pile of elephant dung then it makes sense to ensure that the perpetrator has packed her trunk and said goodbye, or is sufficiently well behaved to remain, but do we need to look for mouse droppings in every cupboard?   It is not accurate that the projected date for opening churches is July 4th. That is the projected date for the commencement of stage three during which churches, theatres, pubs and many other things will open. We are currently well into stage two during which non-essential… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
26 days ago
Reply to  T Pott

Given the likely animal origin of SARS-CoV-2, perhaps this was a reference to bats in the belfry?

Michael Mulhern
Michael Mulhern
26 days ago

Alison Baker’s comments struck a real chord. I haven’t been back to Ireland since the lockdown in order to comply with travel and distancing restrictions there. A good friend and neighbour died a fortnight ago and attendance at the funeral (which would have been natural in other circumstances) was impossible. However, ten members of her family gathered in the church where she had worshipped for more than half a century, celebrated a Requiem Mass led by her parish priest, and were joined by a ‘congregation’ of many hundreds because livestreaming has been part of the DNA of Catholic (and Anglican)… Read more »

Paul Waddington
Paul Waddington
26 days ago

Having read all the comments, it does seem to me that the Catholic Church adopts a much more positive approach towards getting getting churches reopened and used. It was Cardinal Nichols who went public urging the Government to move on the opening of churches, and he seems to have had some success. In contrast, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s contribution seems to have been to use kitchens and dining rooms in preference.   I think you will find that many Catholic Churches will have their doors wide open next Monday, whilst their C of E equivalents will be debating whether it… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
25 days ago

Yes, Paul. Absolutely. Poor talkative (Protestant) Christianity!

Stanley Monkhouse
25 days ago
Reply to  Bill Broadhead

Wonderful, Paul.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
24 days ago

In his Gore lecture Owen Chadwick said that Catholicism can never accept a “religionless Christianity”. Grace does not destroy nature but perfect it as the Angelic Doctor wrote. Some forms of Protestant Christianity see religion as the enemy of Christianity.

Stanley Monkhouse
24 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Thank you. I’ve long been of the opinion, doubtless not original, that Jesus came to destroy religion.

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