Thinking Anglicans

Churches deal with the Covid-19 lockdown

Updated 6 pm Thursday

With reference to the stories below about hospital chaplaincy, the bishops who signed the previous document, linked below, have published A letter regarding hospital chaplaincy. The content of this new letter is copied here below the fold.

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The Church Times today has a comprehensive report:  Churches co-ordinate their CV-19 response as figures go on rising.

The Telegraph reports:(£) Archbishop of Canterbury says Jesus is ‘quite up to date’ with technology and urges churches to stay closed. The video mentioned was published here yesterday.

The bishops of the Church in Wales have published this guidance on the matter of livestreaming from church buildings:

…All church buildings remain closed until further notice. This means churches must not be open for public worship or solitary prayer.

Worship has been recorded and broadcast both commendably and effectively from parsonages over recent days. Whilst the Welsh Government Regulations now permit a cleric to record or broadcast a service (without a congregation) from church buildings, the desirability and advisability of doing so will vary between different contexts. Individual Bishops will advise further on this matter within their respective dioceses and any such events should be held only in strict accordance with those diocesan guidelines, or with the explicit permission of the diocesan Bishop.

The Welsh Government Regulations also permit clergy to visit their churches, and for other church officers and volunteers to visit churches only to undertake a voluntary or charitable duty, where it is not reasonably practicable to undertake that duty from home. It is therefore possible for essential and urgent site inspections to be undertaken by clerics, or by another person nominated by the Incumbent, Ministry/Mission Area Leader, Area Dean or Archdeacon. We ask that such visits are kept to an absolute minimum…

The Times has this report (£):  Coronavirus: Bishop bans clergy from bedsides of the sick and dying

Members of the Church of England clergy who have volunteered their services as hospital chaplains during the crisis have been told that they will not be allowed to minister to any sick or dying patients at the bedside, even when wearing protective equipment, because of the risk of spreading the infection.

In a letter sent to all bishops and those involved in chaplaincy provision, the Right Rev Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, under whose authority the new Nightingale Hospital in east London falls, wrote of the need to maintain “extremely strict discipline regarding contact”. He said that volunteer chaplains would be banned from going on wards or near patients, including those not displaying symptoms of Covid-19…

The Church Times also covers this: Volunteers’ help for stretched hospital chaplains to be tightly restricted

CLERICS who have volunteered to become temporary chaplains in emergency field hospitals in London during the coronavirus crisis have been advised not to have any direct contact with patients, even when wearing protective equipment.

The new guidance was issued by the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, this week in a letter to diocesan and area bishops and others involved in chaplaincy provision. It has been produced in consultation with the Barts Health NHS Trust, which is hosting the recently opened 4000-bed Nightingale Hospital in Newham (News, 9 April)…

Here is the full text of the letter mentioned above: NHS – Nightingale Hospitals – Barts 2020.

The Church Times report continues:

…In an article in The Times on Thursday, the Rector of St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield, in London, the Revd Marcus Walker, wrote that other denominations had found ways of “safely recruiting and dispatching people to minister to their own faithful — and quite rightly.

“It is only the Established Church which has decided not to allow the upscaling of its presence. The two chaplains, divided (by some miracle) over five different locations, and working all hours of day and night, will have to engage in this desperately important but hugely challenging ministry by themselves.”

Last week, the lead chaplain for chaplaincy and spiritual care with bereavement services at Croydon University Hospital, the Revd Andrew Dovey, said that providing God’s grace in all situations, regardless of the risk, was “the calling that Christ gave [chaplains] and our Christian responsibility” (News, 3 April).

Fr Walker writes that the new advice goes against this calling. “Today we are banned from doing this, not by a hostile government or a suspicious health service but by our own Church.”

The Times opinion article by Marcus Walker quoted above can be found here: (£) Clergy must be free to minister to the sick in this crisis.

A letter regarding hospital chaplaincy

We do not recognize the picture painted by Revd Marcus Walker in his article in The Times “Clergy must be free to minister to the sick in this crisis” (9 April 2020).

Priests’ every instinct is to be alongside those who are sick and dying, to offer prayer, to accompany people through suffering and minister at the time of death. However, we who are priests and chaplains also have a duty to prevent infection and so save lives.

In this context Church of England bishops fully support the duty of NHS professional chaplains to minister face to face to the sick and the dying. We value the sacrifices they are potentially making to work on the front line. As our guidance made clear, how this is best done is a matter for each NHS Trust within their own local risk assessments.  At present their practice varies across the country.

In the midst of the pressure and demands of our pandemic crisis many parish clergy are volunteering their services to offer chaplaincy at the recently opened NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCeL Centre in east London, and to serve alongside brave and overstretched doctors and nurses. In the battle against this vicious virus, their commitment is a real good news story.

Our letter as bishops offered clear guidelines in particular to these volunteer temporary chaplains who would come in to offer wholehearted support to both staff and relatives of patients, whilst observing our Government’s and medical advisers’ clear protocols with regard to physical distancing and avoidance of cross infection with Covid-19.

At Barts Health NHS Trust, which includes five hospitals, plus responsibility for the new Nightingale facility, there is a multi-faith team of chaplains. The Anglican lead chaplain had made us aware that additional chaplaincy provision is needed. We had agreed to facilitate this by seconding a small number of clergy from parish and other responsibilities to the hospital setting. The Dioceses of Chelmsford and London had already begun to identify such suitable volunteers and to put them in touch with the lead Anglican chaplain.

As things currently stand, these additional volunteers cannot assist in face to face patient contact as this would increase the risk of infection transmission within, into, and out of the hospital. They can, however, assist in pastoral support of patients via video call on phone or tablet, and in the vitally important task of providing pastoral care to NHS staff. This was what was discussed with the lead chaplain earlier this week and it is what we will continue to advise our volunteers, unless otherwise formally requested by the Trust.

The Chelmsford and London bishops continue to be in regular contact with and to support hospital chaplains in their areas. They are committed to helping them safely increase the capacity to respond pastorally in their health care settings, whilst doing everything they can to reduce infection transmission, to protect the NHS, and to save lives.

The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Sarah Mullally DBE, Bishop of London

The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford

The Rt Revd Peter Hill, Bishop of Barking

The Rt Revd Dr Joanne Woolway Grenfell, Bishop of Stepney

 

 

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Anthony ArcherStanley MonkhouseJoyce KellyDavid BeadleTony Bellows Recent comment authors
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Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

During the Plague of 1665 the City clergy were noticable for their absence. Their ( persecuted) Dissenting brethren won great esteem for staying put and ministering …one of the reasons for the subsequent Declaration of Indulgence.

John S
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John S

We have a situation where different denominations, different churches within the Anglican communion, and at one stage different Bishops within the CofE, presumably all roughly equally intelligent, thoughtful, and caring, are reaching different conclusions. Does not that alone tell us that the issue is not clear cut in either direction? That, however strong the arguments you advance for your position, there are valid arguments for the other side as well?

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

I find this dictate from the CofE to be, quite frankly, obscene! These people would have ordered the Samaritan to leave the beaten man by the roadside, in fear of infection! Have these “ministers” (and the quotes are quite deliberate) not read Matthew?

“…I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

As part of this story there are many christian doctors, nurses, hospital cleaners, porters etc etc whose ministry to the sick continues at the moment – why is the ministry of clergy the only christian ministry or life vocation which gets a mention, and why is the physical presence of clergy so important? Adding additional people to the mix increases the risk of transmission not just to clergy and patients but to the other healthcare workers too (whether christian or not, in fact). The Good Samaritan was not a priest or a levite …

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

An excellent observation Mark. I am getting increasingly irritated by the small minority of clergy (less laity) who seem to think their view on access to church buildings or physical access to coronavirus patients is the superior one, a view they usually also express as part of a gratuitous swipe against the bishops. It is wholly unedifying and does nothing for the mission and ministry of the Church, at a time when the vast majority of clergy and lay people are actually making a huge contribution to the myriad needs of their communities at this time.

John S
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John S

Anthony: please, please say that you did not mean to suggest that those who take a different view to you on these matters are not also “making a huge contribution to the myriad needs of their communities at this time”.

Anthony Archer
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Anthony Archer

Of course they are making a contribution, but their very public display of dissent from regulations and their bishop sniping is not part of it.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

The work of Christian NHS staff (and indeed those of other faiths or none) is valuable indeed. But in a busy unit they are likely to be overwhelmed with meeting physical needs and in some cases coping with their own grief or fears. Having someone present to address spiritual and emotional needs may matter deeply to some critically ill people who want this, along with their loved ones. And overstretched healthworkers may not be able to spare time for the newly bereaved if they wish to prevent other bereavements. Chaplains are anyway not all clergy.

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

It would appear that there is a tension between providing emotional and spiritual care to a higher proportion of critically ill and dying people and minimising the risk of spreading infection, e.g. by temporary chaplains passing the virus to others in local communities, which it is left to individual trusts to resolve. It would be useful to have a sense of how concerned bishops are to try to find ways to meet the needs of rising numbers of patients who may feel afraid and alone, for instance reviewing policies if testing becomes more widely available, including antibody tests. The Church… Read more »

Anne Eyre
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Anne Eyre

To Marcus Walker, hello!
Is it any comfort to remember the centurions daughter was healed from afar? Unfortunately , ministry, like every other area of life, is struggling to remain human under inhuman restrictions. We have prayer, even in the antechamber!
Anne Eyre

Jayne Ozanne
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Jayne Ozanne

Yes but this isn’t about the person praying it’s about the person dying and letting THEM know that they are not alone when facing death.

I’ve been quite struck over the last week by responses that seem to be written from a church (ie internal) stand point rather than from the person in need (external & non-churched) stand point.

We are not here to minister to ourselves – but to those who have still to connect with our Creator God, the source of Love.

Kate
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Kate

Jayne, I am finding through this that yours is one of the voices with which I agree.

Stevie Gamble
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Stevie Gamble

Unfortunately there is not enough personal protective equipment for NHS staff caring for those with Covid-19; they are serving and they are dying because of that, and yet that fact is omitted. The idea that this precious resource, as the Secretary of State for Health described it today, should be used instead by chaplains displays a remarkable contempt for the well-being of others. It is painfully obvious that the people advancing this argument really don’t care…

Jill Armstead
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Jill Armstead

Hopefully the inadequacies of the last centralised nationalised industry tragically exposed by the pandemic will finally be addressed robustly by this government with a sufficient majority to dare to look at the German health service public/private model that is working so much better. Thank God we do not have the Corbyn government that promised to dispense with any private sector involvement in the NHS whatsoever. In respect of PPE, to suggest the cause of health worker death in every case is insufficient PPE, is irresponsible unless you can offer evidence. Health workers do not live in a PPE vacuum. They… Read more »

Savi Hensman
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Savi Hensman

It is unhelpful to write off those with different views on this issue as showing ‘contempt for the well-being of others’ and not really caring. It is important to prevent infection from spreading and provide physical care but also to offer emotional and spiritual care to patients, their families and health staff. This can also assist physical health. Someone struggling to breathe and afraid of dying without loved ones around may sometimes feel calmer if there is a person with them to listen and, if they want, pray with them. The current work of chaplains is clearly valued by many… Read more »

David Beadle
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David Beadle

This argument about PPE doesn’t make any sense. Hospital Chaplains add a crucial dimension to the holistic care of patients that already happens on the wards, and there are hospital trusts requesting additional chaplains at the moment. Covid 19 patients are being given mental, as well as physical, care already; given that a high proportion of those with Cornonavirus in intensive care sadly do not survive, much of what the ICUs are doing now includes palliative care. It’s not like a small number of additional Anglican chaplains would be snatching PPE that would otherwise definitely be in use physically saving… Read more »

Tony Bellows
Guest

The Church in Wales also publishes a list of some of the Churches and Cathedrals where live streamed services are available:

https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/en/clergy-and-members/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance/digital-resources/live-streamed-and-recorded-services/

It includes
Good Friday: 3-00 p.m. Meditations, live-streamed from Brecon Cathedral. Download the Order of Service (Word)
Easter Day: 11-00 a.m. Eucharist and address. Pre-recorded at Brecon Cathedral.

All programmes, recorded or live streamed, whether from a church building or elsewhere, are produced in accordance with both Guidance issued by the Bench of Bishops on March 31st 2020 and Welsh Government Regulations of March 26th 2020.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

That list is, indeed, impressive, and very helpful to have full information in one place with links to all of the individual churches and Cathedrals.

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

I have been watching services from Hong Kong cathedral – open for private prayer all through the crisis by the way. https://www.stjohnscathedral.org.hk/ They use Common Worship (they really ought to have a provincial rite…). It is traditional Anglican in liturgical style. If you get up in the middle of the night you can join them live. (I watch the recording!) If your Mandarin or Cantonese is up to it, there are services in these languages too. If you need that sort of liturgical fix right now (I do – even though some of the live streaming etc. in the UK… Read more »

Graeme Buttery
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Graeme Buttery

Having read the “advice ” from the bishop of Chelmsford RE hospital ministry, I am appalled at it. If we can be provided with the right PPE, why in God’s name can’t we bring comfort to the dying and their families? These people will have to answer for this before God himself. How dare they tell us to stay away. We, the clergy are neither stupid nor entitled, but merely wish to serve. No matter what rational arguments are advanced, I feel we are falling our nation by hiding away. There are ALWAYS ways to minister I am ashamed today… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Can’t comment on local circumstances in the UK. One of my colleagues once told me that we Anglicans tend to equate prayer with ‘reading to God’. It seems to me that one of the criterion of good liturgy right now is finding ways to emphasize solidarity. I thought the Good Friday liturgy today from St. Peter’s square to be a creative example in that regard.

https://www.romereports.com/en/2020/04/10/pope-prays-a-moving-way-of-the-cross-with-texts-prepared-by-prisoners/

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

If it’s available where you are, you might like to read this from a Brooklyn paramedic: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-52196815
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent

John S
Guest
John S

An observation on Thinking Anglicans. When we discuss inclusion issues, we like to think of ourselves as on the right side, not just of the issues, but of the approach to the debate. We like to think that we are the ones who are open, we are the ones who listen, we are the ones who are receptive to the spirit of God, that we are the ones extending love and charity to others. And we contrast ourselves with the narrow-mindedness, the rigidity, the intolerance of alternative views, the moral self-righteousness of those on the other side of that debate.… Read more »

Andrew Lightbown
Guest

The issue is really quite straightforward and is nothing to do with bishops, or even archbishops, issuing edits and mandates. Policy is not being set by the churches, dioceses, or even individual bishops. It is being set by the hospitals. If I turned up at my local hospitals (Milton Keynes, Stoke Mandeville, or Oxford) I would be asked, and if I refused then told, to go home. This would apply to all areas and specialities from A and E to the Hospice and via the wards. The hospital rubrics make this abundantly clear. It’s sad, it’s tragic, and it’s hospital… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

I’d like to pick up on John S and Savi’s recent comments, and thank them for what I take to be moderate and respectful views. As with the diverse views on human sexuality, it seems clear to me that there can be diverse views, held with integrity and compassion, on the issues of church access, church streaming, and chaplaincy to the sick. These are matters that challenge us on the level of personal conscience. We then need to look at the interface between personal conscience and hierarchical authority. Priests swear canonical obedience, and vows are not to be taken lightly.… Read more »

Savi Hensman
Guest
Savi Hensman

Thanks, Susannah, for your very helpful contribution (and to all nurses at this time). I believe those treating and caring for patients do indeed express God’s love, at considerable personal cost. But I was conscious even a decade ago, as a carer for a succession of family members approaching life’s end, that NHS staff were overstretched even in terms of physical care and that it made a major difference to have family support and religious practices at the bedside. In the current crisis, as demand increases, I find it saddening that this will often not be possible, even if the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

It is very saddening, Savi. In normal times as a nurse, part of the privilege you are given, is to share deeply intimate moments with gathered family and a dying loved one. That is humbling, but also an amazing privilege. Their absence from the bedside at this time is truly sad and pitiful. These are exceptional and very painful times. The situation in care homes is also desperately sad, in some cases because a resident has dementia and feels lost, in some because few even visit the person, even at the best of times. In both hospital and care home,… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Guest
Fr. Dean Henley

If I were dying in hospital I would want to receive the sacraments of extreme unction and of reconciliation from a priest, but realistically I’m in a tiny, tiny minority of people in the U.K. who would expect that. The overwhelming majority would find comfort from a nurse holding their hand as they died. This weekend is about the Resurrection but doesn’t the Incarnation speak to us here. A nurse in these extraordinary circumstances is in persona Christi as far as I’m concerned.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Simon Butler has today posted this on his Facebook page. “There is a lot of comment still about clergy visiting people with COVID-19 at the end of life. Much of it appears to show little knowledge of how hospitals are currently working. Someone connected to a large NHS Trust has sent me some information about the sort of approach being taken in hospitals at the moment, to give an idea of the reality (rather than the fantasy) of what the current position is. I quote: “Visiting Patients at the end of life – we know that you are very worried… Read more »

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

This reportage about Italian parish clergy and hospital chaplains seems to be on point: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/world/europe/italy-priests-coronavirus.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage. The courage of such clergy cannot be understated. However, one person commenting on the story has this to say: “Coronavirus is not a religious organism. It does not distinguish between the faithful and the infidel. It does not care who is a Christian, a Moslem or a Jew. It doesn’t acknowledge who is good and who is evil. As a parasite, the virus’s only function is to replicate itself ad nauseum. It cannot do that by remaining in one human host. Chained to a human… Read more »

Tony Bellows
Guest

The Archbishop of Canterbury says Jesus is quite up to date with technology. Well here is an idea. Green screen is the clever technology which, like back projection, can enable something to appear behind a subject – it’s used for movies and TV shows all the time. It is not that difficult. All you need to make a green screen video is a smartphone, a cloth, some video editing software, and a few tips and tricks. So there is in fact nothing to stop clergy from giving a service from what appears to be a background of their church nave… Read more »

David Beadle
Guest
David Beadle

The letter from the London [and Chelmsford] Bishops doesn’t seem to contradict anything stated in the original Times article. The article quoted the Deputy Lead Chaplain at St Barts saying that they were willing to train Anglican clergy and provide them with PPE in order to minister physically to patients with the Coronavirus, and claimed that the Bishop of Chelmsford had nonetheless directed that this would not happen. The letter does not refute this claim at all. It makes reference to “what was discussed with the lead chaplain”, which is not the same as the lead chaplain having set the… Read more »

Joyce Kelly
Guest
Joyce Kelly

Churches in California have been on shutdown orders since March 18th. In Sacramento County, California, one-third of all the virus cases up to last week, were from people who attended one church that refused at first to follow the order to stop holding services. As of last week 71 people who attended that church tested positive for the virus, the pastor was in the hospital and one member had already died from the virus. It just shows how important it is for churches to suspend services.

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

Being retired, I’ve said nothing about this business. Now, on reflection, I think CoE bishops have shown themselves as nincompoops over the closure of, in particular, cathedrals over Easter. Compare the Easter mass of ABC with that of Cardinal Nichols. The former kitchen sink drama may have appealed to some groupies already in the club, but I doubt it did much for the casual visitor or annual Easter church-goer. It did nothing for me.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

As with the opportunities for worship in normal times, there are always folk who like what they participate with, the sermon, the music, the spiritual highs and lows, and those who don’t, and this is no different in this new temporary virtual age. I didn’t see the Archbishop in his tidied up kitchen, but I did hear some of the sermon. I have heard many comments from people who are largely unchurched but wished to engage with some form of Christian worship at Easter and who went online and found the sermon hugely thoughtful. And they cannot possibly be in… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

The archbishops issue a document that comes across as a stern imperative. The prolocutors endorse it in the strongest terms, along with giving at least one item of fake science. Then the ABC says their words weren’t instructions at all, merely advice. They have not explained why their “advice” differs from that of HMG, nor why they think it’s apparently more dangerous for a handful of people to set foot inside a CoE church than an RC church. It’s great PR. “Nincompoop” to me implies a degree of affection despite fuzzy mindedness. If you don’t like that word, Mr Archer,… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

Nincompoop. For such a colloquial word, nincompoop actually has a very learned past. Samuel Johnson, the compiler of England’s first proper dictionary, claims the word comes from the Latin phrase non compos mentis (“not of right mind”), and was originally a legal term. To regard the bishops as nincompoops says more about you than the bishops you accuse.