Thinking Anglicans

Churches respond to government recovery strategy

Updated yet again Thursday evening

The Church of England has issued this:

Statement on latest Government guidance on coronavirus

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: “We note from the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy that churches could be open from July as part of the conditional and phased plan to begin lifting the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in our church buildings.

“We are examining what steps we will need to take to do so safely and are actively planning ahead in preparation. We strongly support the Government’s approach of continuing to suppress the transmission of the virus and accordingly, we recognise that at this time public worship cannot return in the interests of public health and safety.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales issued this:

Statement

The timing and the manner of the opening of churches touches profound sensitivities and spiritual needs. The Government’s document and statements fail to recognise this.

The Government’s position, established today, includes these steps aimed at opening churches as soon as possible: the establishment of a task force for places of worship, to work closely with ‘stakeholders’ in ensuring that premises are COVID-19 secure; and heeding the experience of other countries in which churches are already open for worship.

In dialogue with the Government, the Catholic Church will continue its engagement in this process and has already submitted a detailed plan, in full accordance with public health guidelines, for churches to be opened for private prayer.

The Church is ready to play its full part in the task force, understanding that this includes the possible earlier use of churches for private prayer, as a first safe step towards their use for public worship.

Will these two organisations now consult each other? The Catholic bishops took full advantage from the outset of the government regulations, to maintain livestreamed worship from inside their church buildings.

Update 1 Wednesday evening

The Government has announced that Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, will chair a taskforce to develop plans for the re-opening of “places of worship, including faith, community and public buildings”.  For more detail see Reopening of places of worship in England: breaking news and the government announcement is here.

Update 2 Thursday morning

The Church of England had issued this press release:

Notice from House of Bishops meeting
The House of Bishop met by Zoom today. The bishops prayed together and continued to discuss all matters relating to the COVID 19 pandemic and how they affect the church.

Several hours later, this was replaced by a revised version:

Notice from House of Bishops meeting
The House of Bishops met today (on Zoom) where the various impacts of Covid-19 on a wide range of church matters and national issues were discussed. The Bishops continued in prayer for the victims and families of those most affected.

Update 3 Thursday afternoon

The Church Times has published this report: Churches wary, as task force meets to plan reopening. This includes a full report on the views of Cardinal Nichols.

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Kate
Kate
4 months ago

Two very different statements. One reads like the press release from a local authority talking about recycling centers still being closed, the other reads like a church desperate to resume public worship.

Angusian
Angusian
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

But haven’t you noted, My Lord of London has shown no care for priests or parishes in her public utterances, just imploring the church to support NHS workers, pray for them and do everything to prevent their being overloaded.

Perhaps, more justified, were her words on Thought for the Day celebrating the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth !

For good pastoral concern and realistic support read Nick Baines’ blog.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
4 months ago
Reply to  Angusian

Why would a bishop show care for priests and parishes publically? Pharisees and temples come to mind. When +Sarah was a suffragan she took the trouble to thank me privately for taking on something over and above what is expected of a parish priest. I wasn’t looking for any thanks but I valued it nonetheless.
It may be, of course, that I have misjudged your situation. In which case, apologies. But does that justify the appellation, “My Lord of London”? Or is this yet another gratuitous slur on our bishops? Kyrie eleison.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Allan Sheath

So much of the criticism levelled at bishops is based on communications. Those who know them more personally recoil and say that they don’t deserve the criticism.

Is it possible that both sides are correct and the communications are dreadful and don’t really reflect the people involved? If so, then improving the standard of communication would seem to be an imperative.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

That is a charitable interpretation of the evidence, Kate. And despite it, your excellent opening point about the two statements stands.
If I look at the biggest possible picture, it seems that those responsible for the Church of England as an institution are preoccupied with an image that conforms to this world — with encouraging its members to be exemplary citizens of the United Kingdom. How different that is from the Apostle Paul’s godly pointing (Philippians 3:20) towards our primary citizenship, which is in Heaven.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Martin Adams

”If I look at the biggest possible picture, it seems that those responsible for the Church of England as an institution are preoccupied with an image that conforms to this world — with encouraging its members to be exemplary citizens of the United Kingdom.”

I’m general, I think you are right that the Church of England has become preoccupied with this world rather than the Kingdom of God.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
4 months ago

While the use of church buildings is indeed important, is there somewhere else where leaders have expressed concerns about the wellbeing of the often low-paid workers at high or very high health risk (or caring for someone in that position) who may be under pressure to return to work in circumstances which do not allow social distancing? Surely the prophetic role of the churches is important too at this time?

peterpi -- Peter Gross
peterpi -- Peter Gross
4 months ago
Reply to  Savi Hensman

Thank you, Savi Hensman. A parallel concern for me in the USA is, there are numerous signs that once the president and the governors of certain state governments realized that racial and ethnic minorities in the USA, PRECISELY because they are the ones most likely to be “low-paid workers at high or very high health risk (or caring for someone in that position) who may be under pressure to return to work in circumstances which do not allow social distancing”, are disproportionately being affected by COVID-19, in terms of percentage of total cases and deaths. These leaders don’t seem concerned… Read more »

Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis
4 months ago

I’m puzzled! In all the present heated discussion on this forum why are people hiding behind pseudonyms or just Christian names but not communicating with us using their proper full names. In many cases one can guess who they are but not always. We are pleading for openness in our Christian community so we really need to start being open, honest (and possibly brave) ourselves. If you are hiding behind just a Christian name or nickname please come out of the closet and be proud of your name and views. Thanks in anticipation.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert Ellis

Then, Robert, you will make it impossible for many LGBT to comment here.

Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

That is a fair point Kate……but what a sad state of affairs we have got into if that is the case (which it is). A shame on all our houses…..but not all our discussions are about LGBT matters…..and there are laity, priests, archdeacons and bishops (that I know of) hiding unnecessarily behind pseudonyms and just Christian names on this forum.

Alison Baker
Alison Baker
4 months ago

I’m not hiding behind pseudonyms… but I do hope those engaging with Robert Jenrick will go armed with information and evidence (ecclesial as well as scientific) about how churches have remained open for private prayer across Europe, both in countries with low death tolls (Austria, Finland, Germany, Netherlands etc) and those with high tolls (Belgium, France etc) with no scientific evidence to support the claim that allowing people access for private prayer, with proper hygiene and distancing measures, have caused any ‘clusters’ of infection. It is also instructive to see what the wider public reaction to the continued availability of… Read more »

peter kettle
peter kettle
4 months ago

What a helpful and informative report from the meeting of the House of Bishops!

peter kettle
peter kettle
4 months ago
Reply to  peter kettle

I, for one, am very grateful for the much more comprehensive report of the meeting of the House of Bishops subsequently published.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago

I think Cardinal Nichols strikes the right notes in his remarks to the Church Times. He is upbeat and talks positively about how daily mass has been preserved but of wanting more. Very well done IMO.

It is odd. The Catholic Church is even more of a bureaucratic monolith than the Church of England and isn’t generallly thought of as nimble or dynamic but It seems to me to have coped much better than the Church of England.

Tom James
Tom James
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

That may be, Kate, because the Catholic Church has a more rooted sense of confidence in its own identity, not constantly chasing around to re-invent itself and make itself somehow more ‘relevant’ to keep the show on the road. It knows that it’s there to minister the sacraments, the proclaim the word, to offer pastoral care and to speak for the poor. I don’t get that sense of clarity from the C of E – especially not during this pandemic.

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