Thinking Anglicans

Funerals allowed in CofE churches from 15 June

Updated again Thursday morning 

The Church of England House of Bishops issued a statement earlier today: Bishops revise and produce further guidance. The text is copied below.

The House of Bishops today discussed a range of issues around COVID-19 and approved further advice on funerals, the celebration of Holy Communion and ordinations.

The guidance advises that funerals may be carried out in church buildings from June 15.

It has been issued in light of the easing of restrictions on individual private prayer in places of worship, the reduction in death rates linked to Covid-19 and the pastoral needs of those who have been bereaved. It is in line with guidance from Public Health England.

In keeping with the Church of England’s wider approach to a phased reopening of places of worship, it will be up to each diocesan bishop and senior team how they use the guidance to support churches and cathedrals depending on their local context.

The House noted that this guidance is permissive and not prescriptive. If a building could not open because staff were ill or shielding or could not be easily cleaned, for example, it would be a local decision by those with authority over the building as to whether the permission was used or not.

The funeral may take place at a local crematorium or cemetery if the decision is taken not to open the church as is the case now.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said: “While the restrictions on everyday life necessary to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have been difficult for us all, I’m only too aware that those who have lost loved ones have suffered most of all. I know that the grieving process has been even more difficult because of the limitations on funerals themselves.

“There are now least some signs of hope of an improvement with a fall both in the number of new infections and the death rate, but there will still, sadly, have to be significant limitations on how we mark funerals for some time to come.

“Nevertheless the House of Bishops has agreed that in light of the changing circumstances it is time to review our advice so that it will soon be possible for funeral services to be conducted inside church buildings following Government guidelines.

“At the same time we are actively planning for a wider phased reopening of places of worship when it is safe and practical to do so and look forward to the time when we can meet and worship together again in our buildings which mean so much to so many.”

Separate funeral and bereavement resources for clergy and officiants for funerals can be found on our website.

Funerals: the most recent COVID-19 Advice for Conducting Funerals version 2.2 dated 3 June is here.

Ordinations: see COVID-19 Advice on Ordinations

On Holy Communion, see COVID-19 Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion

Updated risk assessment document for opening church buildings (version 2 dated 9 June). It carries this warning

THIS IS A PLANNING DOCUMENT ONLY. IT WILL BE UPDATED AND CONTENT MAY CHANGE ONCE GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE ON REOPENING PLACES OF WORSHIP HAS BEEN PUBLISHED. We are awaiting clarification from government on the extent and nature of what ‘supervised individual prayer’ means and what exactly will be required. We will update this document as further information becomes available. SUPERSEDED by version 3 at 17.15 Friday

This COVID-19: update from the Church of England on reopening church buildings by Becky Clark via Law & Religion UK is also very helpful.

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Father David
25 days ago

The phrase “too little, too late” springs to mind. The ministers of the National Church seem to have been rather marginalised in recent times as so many funerals are now taken by Civil Funeral Celebrants offering a secular ceremony. A clerical colleague told me that on a visit to take a funeral at the local Crematorium there were a dozen funerals taking place on that particular day and his service was the only one of a religious nature.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
25 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Father David. Funerals conducted by Civil Celebrants aren’t necessarily secular. Civil Celebrants will simply fulfil the wishes of the family.I have attended one where there was a psalm, biblical reading prayer and a commendation. Perhaps some clergy need better relationships with undertakers, and not all clergy are keen on taking funerals of non churchgoers it would seem.

Father David
25 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

I had not realised that religious material could be included in Civil Ceremony funerals. I must confess that I have only ever attended one at Ruislip Crem many years ago and that was completely secular.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
25 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Yes. There is a difference between Civil Celebrants and specifically Humanist celebrants. But the fact some clergy only do do “church”funerals hasnt helped.

Nigel LLoyd
Nigel LLoyd
23 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Our largest local firm of Funeral Directors now conduct all their own funerals, unless there is a specific church connection. They have their own burial ground, crematorium and a beautiful Ceremony Hall (not called a Chapel). But even “Humanist’ funerals can have a religious content. I was once following on from one such funeral, which ended with a live guitarist, singing “Knock, knock, knocking on heaven”s door”.

Stanley Monkhouse
25 days ago
Reply to  Father David

The ascendancy of the civil celebrant was well established before covid, Fr – at least in East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire. Even civil celebrants though include prayers – and why not? – but they are unencumbered by the judgement stuff that is, I think, unpalatable to modern man. I welcomed the rise of the civil celebrant not because I was doing fewer funerals – I liked the opportunities they brought and found them rewarding for all concerned until after my own son’s death when I could do no more – but because there was less hypocrisy about saying stuff that… Read more »

Ian
Ian
25 days ago

A distinguished Archdeacon said to me a number of years ago: ‘We can just about cope with losing the wedding. If we lose the funerals we’re XXXX!’

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
25 days ago
Reply to  Ian

I believe that after the Weddings Project one of its members suggested they move on to consider funerals. But it didn’t happen

Colin Penfold
Colin Penfold
23 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

Yes it did. My parish and diocese was part of the pilot.

Helen King
Helen King
25 days ago

The new document on Communion states that only live-streamed services are really Eucharistic assemblies. This goes with my gut instincts; watching a recording of someone celebrating the Eucharist feels like watching a performance rather than taking part in an assembly, which is why I’ve slowly abandoned my parish’s weekly recorded service and found instead recorded Services of the Word or Evensongs where the distance feels less odd. And I have found these very welcoming and nourishing, even though it’s not like gathering with my own community. I’d be interested to know what the ‘official’ position now is; should parishes abandon… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
25 days ago
Reply to  Helen King

Something about voyeurism comes to mind, and the incarnational nature of the Song of Songs, even better in the Hebrew, I’m told. There are all sorts of parallels. What fun!

Andrew
Andrew
25 days ago
Reply to  Helen King

I’d say they should abandon them. The BBC has done a good job during lockdown with its broadcasts from Bangor cathedral on Sunday mornings – a lone celebrant and pre-recorded clips of Songs of Praise for the hymns. Zoom can’t compete with the bandwidth or professionalism, I’m afraid. Back to Church Sunday will be a struggle, as we replace penitential purple with green, having skipped a whole season.

Swithun
Swithun
25 days ago
Reply to  Helen King

It’s a little vague though, isn’t it? Prerecorded Eucharists are distinct from live streamed ones, but it doesn’t specify how, exactly. On the question of remote consecration, it says no for now, but commends further theological work. I think that’s right, for reasons apparent in the document. If you are willing to assert, as the document does, that a live-streamed congregation is a real Eucharistic assembly regardless of physical distance, then why cannot bread and wine present within that assembly be consecrated, if that is the intention of president and assembly, with a like disregard to distance? There might be… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
24 days ago
Reply to  Swithun

When I tuned into Radio 3 yesterday afternoon I was thrust into the quire of York Minster during a broadcast of choral evensong from 2009 on the eve of Corpus Christi, as though it were ‘live’. Sadly, they are having to make do with archive recordings during lockdown, a trend towards cost-cutting observed even before coronavirus. I was, however, for that hour, transported to a different place at a different time in my imagination.
 
God moves in a mysterious way…

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
24 days ago
Reply to  Swithun

The section ‘One bread and one cup’, while allowing that consuming bread and wine at home “may have spiritual value for some” and commending “further theological reflection”, also says: “The inherent material nature of the sacraments is not simply about material substance being provided from some source that each participant then accesses individually if simultaneously. Instead it is about participants sharing in matter which is rendered as ‘holy things’ by the Church’s action in the sacrament.” This is a solid argument against the practice, and its advocates need to come up with better than the lazy “God can do anything… Read more »

North End Anglican
North End Anglican
24 days ago
Reply to  Helen King

Like Helen, during this time I have got more benefit from watching our parish’s non-Eucharistic services than its Eucharistic services. The benefice where I went on placement when I was discerning for ministry has been doing live Sunday morning Zoom services (non-Eucharistic) which my wife and I have have both found to be wonderfully participatory. That said, the recorded services which we have both agreed have been the ‘best’ (at least for us and our respective spiritualities) have been those from our local URC congregation, where every few weeks, the minister invites the viewers to get hold of some bread… Read more »

Bill Broadhead
Bill Broadhead
25 days ago

The words ‘doors’ ‘locked’ ‘horses’ ‘bolted’ spring to mind.

T Pott
T Pott
24 days ago

What is going on? Thursday afternoon and the government is yet to publish regulations for places of worship to open on Monday.
 
Another curious thing is that the CofE is seeking clarity about “supervised” individual prayer though the government announcement seems not to use the word “supervised”.at all.

T Pott
T Pott
24 days ago

Stranger and stranger. Yet I wonder if the Church is reading too much into the latest announcement. It being legal to go to a place of worship certainly seems to imply it must be legal for the place of worship to be open, but is that inference, however plain, sufficient to countermand the direct statement that it is not, at least until Monday.

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