Thinking Anglicans

Government advice on safe use of churches

Updated Friday evening to include Church of England latest advice issued at 17.15

This morning the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has issued:

COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic

This is a comprehensive document. The whole needs to be read carefully before allowing any opening for individual prayer, which is now permitted (date was changed by Government yesterday) from tomorrow, Saturday.

A PDF copy of the Government document, at the time of writing is available here.

A summary of section 4 is found in this  Law & Religion UK post: Guidance on supervised individual prayer

Update The Church of England has now issued the following:

Version 3 of the Risk Assessment document

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Father David
23 days ago

Is there any advice or recommendations concerning communal worship in the open air say in a churchyard? I ask because a parishioner has suggested such a gathering for a forthcoming Patronal Festival. I am highly dubious myself but it would be good to know the thoughts of others.

David Keen
David Keen
23 days ago
Reply to  Father David

I was in a diocesan discussion yesterday with Archdeacons etc., the answer to your question was no, because I had the same one! Though if you tacked on a protest or a statue removal I’m sure you would get away with it.

ACI
ACI
23 days ago
Reply to  David Keen

That is one of the funniest comments I have read at this site. Thank you.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
23 days ago
Reply to  David Keen

Monuments to individuals are never just about the individual, they are about the values and systems they worked for and represented, and how we assay those values. The first time I visited Virginia, I was taken aback by the monuments to Confederate leaders. I wondered, why would someone put up monuments to people who warred against the United States? Here in Canada we have similar issues i.e. monuments to brutal imperialists like ‘Lord’ Cornwallis who treated both highland Scots and Mi’kmaq brutally. Even Winston Churchill, icon of the ‘greatest generation’ (like my dad who fought with the Canadian army in… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
22 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

I assume you are referring to the extirpation proclamation against the Mi’kmaqs, but I was not aware that he took action against the ‘highland Scots’: the Acadians certainly (though the most decisive action against the latter occurred after Cornwallis’ departure, between 1751 and 1755). Whilst I make no apology for Cornwallis’ actions (indeed, he was rebuked by the board of trade for both his aggression and overspending on defence), it seems likely that he was as aggressive as he was because: (i) Louisbourg had been retroceded to France, who esteemed it a great prize, after the end of the war… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
22 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

You seem open to longer posts, perhaps you will indulge mine. I was born and raised in Nova Scotia, a descendant on my mother’s side of both highland Scots (Mabou Pioneers) and les Acadiens, and Scots more generally on my father’s side. The past 22 years I have lived in the provincial capital of Halifax, K’jipuktuk in Mi’kmaq, (‘founded’ by Edward Cornwalis) where I worked as a parish priest and archdeacon of Halifax and then Canon until retirement. The Mi’kmaq friendship flag flies here over schools and other buildings.   There was a huge and protracted debate here regarding the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
22 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

erratum, and a petty annoyance, The correct spelling is Cornwallis, double ‘LL’, I dropped one, my bad.

Froghole
Froghole
22 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Thank you very much indeed! That is very interesting, as are the references. I had only seen some stories about the statue in the Globe and Mail a couple of years ago. I had the pleasure of visiting Cape Breton Island a while back and I agree the fortress is very impressive: indeed Louis XV was so anxious to get it back that he decided to forego French gains in the Low Countries at Aix-la-Chapelle and in so doing destroyed his high reputation with the French public.   Re the scalping: it was a trope of practically every colonial war… Read more »

ACI
ACI
22 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

1950s?

Froghole
Froghole
21 days ago
Reply to  ACI

Many thanks, ACI. A few years ago the Southern Poverty Law Center undertook a review of all Confederate monuments. They updated their research recently, and this link shows when these monuments were erected: https://www.splcenter.org/sites/default/files/com_whose_heritage_timeline_print.pdf   You will see that a great many of them were constructed during the TR, Taft and Wilson administrations. This was no doubt on account of an anxiety to memorialise the conflict before it passed into history, but also to emphasise the permanence of the Jim Crow system as it had been established after 1877.   However, you will also see a smaller spate of construction… Read more »

ACI
ACI
21 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thanks. My point was only that referring to 1950s is a bit confusing since as you note, north and south, most were constructed in the TR, Taft, and Wilson period.
 
 

Froghole
Froghole
21 days ago
Reply to  ACI

Oh yes, ACI. You are quite right, and thank you for that. The last paragraph in the comment I made was certainly maladroit in that sense. Apologies for that.   Whilst there was a wave of construction following the Brown/Topeka case, animated by the perceived threat to the ‘southern way of life’, I suspect that one of the reasons why many journalists (for instance) now major on the recent (post-war) provenance of many statues is that they are making a concealed political point: removal will satisfy the desires of BLM and other campaigners, but the opponents of BLM (or those… Read more »

ACI
ACI
21 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

I am intrigued by your remarks re: the antiquity of the monuments as an issue. I would have thought that some objections are precisely apt because monuments–north and south–emerged in the period of TR, Taft, Wilson because the memory of lost soldiers was still keenly felt, *as a loss.* This was certainly the attitude Lincoln had about the civil war: a tragedy in which it was important, if the country were to be able to heal, not to have one side ‘victorious’ and the other monumentally crushed. All my relatives–after fleeing non-stop conflict in the Rhine valley in the Napoleon… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
22 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thanks for the detailed reply. I think your final paragraph provides a segue into the politics of monuments and nomenclature. It is not simply about the past. These things are very much about the present and the future. The Cornwallis monument in Halifax was actually erected by the Canadian Railroad company in the 19030s. Its location was chosen because it was across the street from their eastern terminus hotel. The whole discussion about monuments and the like is about who gets to narrate the past, who is front and centre, who and whose values are celebrated, and who remains marginalized… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
21 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Very many thanks indeed for this information and for taking the time to provide these responses!   I guess that even *if* the dispossession of First Nations in the Maritimes was *relatively* less vicious than in the 13 colonies, it was nonetheless dispossession. Although I note the GS statement referring to the ‘doctrine of discovery’, I am not aware that the doctrine of terra nullius applied in BNA in the way in which it did, for instance, in Australia. The treaties, the 1763 Proclamation, the 1857 and 1867 ‘civilisation’ Acts and the Indian Act 1876 are evidence enough for that.… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
21 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Engaging and informative conversation, thanks so much!

ACI
ACI
21 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Just google ‘confederate monuments’ Most at turn of century. Interesting that you would think, rather, 1950s and segregation. Instead it was primarily the generation who had lost soldiers and had a memory of that in ‘reconstruction’ era. So too civil war memorials in the northern states at the same period of time.
 
.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
21 days ago
Reply to  ACI

Do you read, The Atlantic? See the piece by retired General (Army) David Petraeus, advocating the removal of Confederate nomenclature from U.S. installations. I think you’ll find his essay a challenge. Teaser below link. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/take-confederate-names-off-our-army-bases/612832/     “Confederate memorialization is only the most obvious expression of formerly acceptable sentiments now regarded critically by many Americans. Once unreservedly celebrated figures like Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, to name just three, held convictions and behaved in ways we now find deeply troubling. It is indicative of the complexity of the problem that while the stained-glass window honoring Robert E. Lee… Read more »

ACI
ACI
21 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Yes, once we know who needs to come down, it is hard to know where to stop.
 
“La grande extirpation” — qui conçoit les autres.
 
I do not trust the ‘wisdom of today’ over the facts of history. On this matter, I prefer the spirit of Luther (justified yet sinner) to Andreas Karlstadt or Zwingli (purification and elimination). History is there to teach us hard truths.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
20 days ago
Reply to  ACI

The ‘facts’ of history indeed. One has to first establish what is meant by historical ‘facts’, as if the members of Black Lives Matter, and those in solidarity with them, don’t know how to establish historical fact based on verifiable historical data. Instance this debate on TA. Froghole’s posts, just for example, are a virtual filing cabinet of delicious data. However, one must then assemble the data and figure out what it actually means. There is the further question about whether you or I or Froghole or Uriah Heep interpret the data viably. My sense is that much of the… Read more »

ACI
ACI
20 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

I’m not convinced that this path is getting at the real issues. It seems rather self-righteous, and perhaps attractive in its short-cut way. Cop shows; cartoons that show civil servants in a positive light; ‘Gone With the Wind, banned; is Woodrow Wilson in or out; and on it goes.   Canadians are free to hold views about the American South, the length of Reconstruction, whether the Churchill Statue should be removed, but I will refrain from sorting out whether removing a Halifax monument is a good idea. In general, I think this doesn’t accomplish very much, in spite of its… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
20 days ago
Reply to  ACI

Let me see if I can reply without being overly contentious.Earlier in the thread I referenced an excellent work by John Mack Faragher on Les Acadiens. I’ll mention another, Champlain’s Dream ( a book Canada’s National Post exclaimed, “Every Canadian should own”) by David Hackett Fischer. Excellent read. Both Fischer and Faragher are American scholars.   None of the post colonial settler societies that trace their roots to the British empire need be viewed in isolation.Historic St. Paul’s Church, Halifax NS (1749) welcomes tourists from all over the world. Many of them have felt free to comment, some insightfully, on… Read more »

ACI
ACI
20 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

This thread is on UK government advice re: safe use. I responded to a comment in which the 1950s were referred to.
 
I will leave you to Cornwallis and kindred concerns you have re: Halifax. Best wishes.
 
 
 
 

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
20 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

To understand the massive construction of Confederate monuments at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, it’s helpful, I think, to understand the historical context. The 1876 U.S. presidential election resulted in an uncertain mess, which was resolved by a deal that put a Republican in the White House in return for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South.   This ended the Reconstruction Period and began the Redemption Period, in which the rights of blacks, including voting and other rights, were removed and the white power structure in the South was restored.… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
20 days ago
Reply to  dr.primrose

Thanks for the detailed reply. With regard to reconstruction, one of my colleagues who knows much more about the period than I, once suggested to me, somewhat hyperbolically perhaps, that reconstruction was about fifty years too short. I have followed some of the controversy over the removal of memorial windows at The National Cathedral in Washington. I did learn from the David Patraeus piece in The Atlantic that while the Confederate windows are out, the verdict on Wilson window is that it stays. Don’t know if there is anymore on that, or how the debate Patraeus references settled on that… Read more »

dr.primrose
dr.primrose
20 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

This is of course not the first time in recent history that the issue of what to do about statues of now-disfavored persons has come up.   After the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the effective liberation of Eastern Europe, those governments and peoples had to make decisions about what to do with all the statues of Lenin, Stalin and other Communist leaders that had been erected all over the place. I don’t think anyone thought that keeping them in place for “historical context” was the right solution.   In many ways, the place that reached one of the… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
20 days ago
Reply to  dr.primrose

Sounds like a good solution indeed. One may distinguish between historical context and mere glorification of past institutions and their values. As I noted earlier in the thread in reply to Peterpi, taking a contentious monument here out of the public square and placing it in a museum where it can be given historical context seems to me to be the preferable solution. While the contextualizing narrative may itself become contentious; but there is always the possibility of an evolution in thinking. It has only been within the last few years that, for example, La Forteresse de Louisbourg/Fortress Louisbourg interpretation… Read more »

ACI
ACI
22 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Probably ought to take down all monuments. Maybe start with Winston Churchill and go from there?
 
 

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
22 days ago
Reply to  ACI

We don’t need any more encouragement of the existing and appalling level of law-breaking. Strange, is it not, to be discussing the unlawfulness of an open-air church service with a congregation of five people while mass demonstrations by people in their thousands (such that the Cenotaph has had to be boarded-up as protection from vandalism) are taking place.

ACI
ACI
22 days ago

I was obviously being sarcastic…vandalism is the correct word. Or stronger. We the wise and righteous generation airbrush another era’s people. As Froghole points out, it is hard to see much of anything, on either side, as simple as ‘here are the good and here are the bad.’

peterpi — Peter Gross
peterpi — Peter Gross
22 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

This is a lame response, but people are imperfect. As I heard preached endlessly at a conservative Christian “mission” when I was homeless, we all fall short of God’s design (the preacher excepted, of course). Oliver Cromwell did great harm to the Church, but allowed Jews to return to England. Winston Churchill definitely had imperialist views of native peoples, but rallied the people of England to fight the Nazis. Recently in England, a statue was torn down of a person who profited off the slave trade, but who also set up foundations to help the poor, that are still running.… Read more »

ACI
ACI
22 days ago

AMEN

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
22 days ago

Context is an important consideration. The demand by African-Americans to remove Confederate memorials, many of them connected to segregation, has a context. The demand of First Nations peoples in Canada to change the nomenclature of public buildings, some named after people who openly advanced an agenda of cultural extinction, has a context. Instance, the Cornwallis debate above. Rather than have the statue become, as it did, a magnet for racial chauvinists, I’d like to see it permanently moved into a museum with proper contextualization. It’s currently in ‘storage’. So, depends on the instance, and the function of the artifact. Artifacts… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
19 days ago

Surely it’s a bit like the debate on this forum about churches. We review them, keep those that continue to meet the needs of the community, and remove or replace those that are outdated or no longer helpful. The problems come when we are unable to let go of structures that are clearly well past their “best-before” date.

Shamus
Shamus
23 days ago
Reply to  Father David

I would assume that would not be legal, unless perhaps it was just six people? But this is a “make it up as you go along” government, so things could change at any moment.

Paul
Paul
23 days ago
Reply to  Shamus

That could work out OK in many parishes (especially rural ones) where a typical congregation is only about six.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
23 days ago
Reply to  Father David

Father David: The starting point is where is your churchyard? The rules are different in the four countries of the UK! Assuming it to be in England, the maximum number of people from different households in a public gathering is six, all exercising social distancing. This is Government guidance as published today. I have to say I agree with Shamus, as the current regulations (i.e., they are mandatory) don’t yet contain the concession about different households and hadn’t been updated on the Government legislation website when I checked just now. Frankly, it is shambolic.   I would suggest David Keen’s… Read more »

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
23 days ago
Reply to  Father David

I note that in today’s Church Times paper edition there is a photo and caption of a vicar in Bedford who ministered to small groups of congregants from an outdoor altar on Trinity Sunday. Personally, I would have thought that contravened the restriction on gatherings of no more than 6 people outside. But it’s not clear how many congregants there were and how arranged. I think it was probably pushing the boundaries…

Last edited 23 days ago by Mary Hancock
T Pott
T Pott
23 days ago
Reply to  Mary Hancock

I read earlier in the week that he, Canon Charles Royden, held sercices half-hourly from 9am until 3pm. Bookings were taken by telephone allowing a maximum of 5 people to attend each one (plus the vicar makes six). The Bishop of St Albans saw no problem with it and it seems not to go against any regulations (except perhaps that the communicants received only in one kind.)..

Kate
Kate
23 days ago
Reply to  Mary Hancock

But when is a gathering a gathering? If they were all 50m apart? 10m? 5m? 2m?

If the vicar found a loophole and managed to organise safe public worship, s/he should be congratulated.

John Wallace
John Wallace
23 days ago

It is a long time since I have seen such a load of jobsworth nonsense! It is worthy of the most obscure parts of Leviticus. Gnats and camels come to mind. How many shops have more than one door, yet I guarantee that most High Street Shops will have a greater footfall on Monday than most of our churches (unless the authors have had a pre-warning of revival)? Where is common sense in all of this? We as a church should be welcoming – yes, sensible precautions like the ones that about 98% of the population have been obediently following… Read more »

Last edited 23 days ago by John Wallace
Mike Smith
Mike Smith
22 days ago

The Church of England updated its advice yesterday evening to say “Government advice does not allow for any public worship, including in enclosed outdoor spaces such as a churchyard. However, you can encourage people to worship individually outdoors.” So we have the formal response that anyone leading services in churchyards is breaking the rules!   One of the questions behind this however is, when does multiple people individually praying become and act of communal worship? I have been advised that the answer is about the intent – is it advertised as a communal act, or led by a minister (lay… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
22 days ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

Absurd though it may seem, the implicitly welcoming nature of our services – even though intended to be restricted to six people for the purposes of the regulations – means that anyone may join in who happens to be walking by.

Andrew
Andrew
22 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

And, public acts of worship are demarcated by time. They have defined start and end points; whereas people drifting in and out for individual private prayer at odd times during the day tends to be more open-ended, and socially distant.

Will Richards
Will Richards
22 days ago

I gather there is something in the pipeline about organists being allowed to return to churches to practice – and presumably play for funerals and livestreamed services, too. Of course, thanks to those many sympathetic, imaginative and inventive incumbents, organ practice has been possible for quite a number of organists over the past couple of months. But this is now becoming urgent in those places where ‘Little Jack Horner’ wants to be noticed as being fully compliant, because musicians are just one of a large group of people for whom closed churches has meant no income. For those who are… Read more »

David Keen
David Keen
22 days ago

This is getting ridiculous. Most clergy don’t have time to camp out on the government, CofE and Diocesan websites (and TA, which is doing a great job of keeping us updated), for the latest tweak, let alone trying to split the difference between advice, guidance and law. It’s tempting just to keep the doors locked until everyone can go back in with no restrictions, so I have time to get back to the day job of being the local vicar. .

T Pott
T Pott
22 days ago

It doesn’t help that there is so much noise in the rules (or whatever they are).We don’t need to be informed what a funeral is and why somebody might wish to attend one, or that musicians like music and are keen to get back to it.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
22 days ago

I’m very much with John Wallace’s observations re Leviticus. ‘The answer’ is not more laws, let alone guidance, advice, regulations, precepts, statutes on which a psalmist or priest or bishop or minister or warden or PCC may mediatate all day, every day, day after day, and night …
There is not enough ‘human resource’ to even write the regs right, as witnessed by the Dangerous Dogs Act and the Building Regulations relating to fire in high buildings like Grenfell Tower. So much for Love God and neighbour.
Fiddling while Canterbury and York burn?

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