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.
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