Thinking Anglicans

London area churches to close completely

This official notice has been issued, signed by the diocesan bishops of London, Southwark, Rochester and Chelmsford, each of which dioceses covers a number of London Boroughs. The full text is copied below, and includes a link to a template for a church door notice.

The Church Times reports accordingly: Close your churches completely, Bishops tell London clergy.

The Church continues to be alive and active but our buildings must close in London 

As we gather to pray for our nation at 7pm this evening, we have been aware how the Church of England in London has responded to the suspension of public worship, and for a season to finding a new way of living, worshipping and serving our communities. Sadly, London is ahead of the rest of the country in seeing a steep rise in the number of those falling sick with COVID-19. We have all heard the strong calls from the Mayor and the Prime Minister not to leave home unless it is essential, and not to use public transport unless we have to. If our attempts to distance ourselves physically from one another and prevent the spread of infection are not effective, more people will die.

In light of this, the time has come, in London, not only for us to suspend public worship, but for us to close our church buildings entirely. In doing this we demonstrate how important physical distancing is in saving lives. Do place notices on the doors and also on your website explaining how people can join with the church in worship and prayer with an emergency telephone number so that contact can be made if required. We are aware that, although we make the decision in London first, it may be required across the country.

Clergy who live adjacent to their churches may still go into the building and pray and even celebrate the Eucharist. You might ring the bell to tell the faithful that prayer is happening and do live stream as much as possible; but the doors should now be left closed even for private prayers. Others should continue their pattern of prayer in their homes. Current guidance remains for baptism, weddings and funeral although this may change in coming days.

Our most profound desire is to come together with our neighbours. Christ taught us to come together as His Body to celebrate the sacraments. In all the history of Christendom in these islands, we have not before taken such a step. Partly, this is our modern understanding of how disease is communicated, which in the times of former plagues had not developed. But it is also born of the teaching of Our Lord that the two great commandments are love of God and love of neighbour. The very love of neighbour that leads us to want to come together requires us to sacrifice congregating for a season.

Even though our buildings will be closed, the Church continues to be alive and active. Please continue to commend tools for worship, bible study and devotion at home which have been put online, continue to live stream the worship you are able to within the guidance, enable people with biblical reflection, spiritual communion, and personal devotion. Where you can meet virtually for prayer and Bible study, do so. Finally, pray for us, as we do for you, in these difficult days.

The action is being replicated for London Boroughs in the Dioceses of London, Southwark, Chelmsford and Rochester and with support from the Archbishop of Canterbury

+ Sarah Bishop of London
+ Christopher Bishop of Southwark
+James Bishop of Rochester
+Stephen Bishop of Chelmsford

 

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Angusian
Angusian
4 months ago

With so many churches in London providing refuge for homeless people during the day, this decision seems unnecessarily cruel -another example of the confusing messages received from both government and church; embracing lepers comes to mind.

Oliver
Oliver
4 months ago
Reply to  Angusian

You sometimes get the impression that the bishops could announce an end to world hunger and the cure for cancer, and they’d still get criticism on here. It was widely reported over the weekend that hotel rooms have been made available for the homeless in London. There are services and facilities available to them to try to support them and reduce the risk to them and others at this time. Nobody should be out on the streets, socialising, or making unnecessary journeys at present. It makes absolute sense to close the churches; I just hope the rest of the country… Read more »

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Oliver

I used to work in the City of London and visited many city centre churches. Even in normal times there were so few casual visitors that everyone was at least 10m apart. With fewer people going into work, they will be even quieter now. Maybe some sort of restriction was necessary for busy churches like Southwark Cathedral but for most of the churches in London there wasn’t a problem and this is a gross over-reaction.

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I live in the City of London, and have done so since 1984; it bears no resemblance to London as a whole. Pretending otherwise simply underlines the very unfortunate disconnect between individuals who feel entitled to do whatever they feel like, whether it be visiting a church or a pub, and those whose lives are endangered by those actions, and are seeking to minimise the dangers to others. I find it difficult to understand individuals with eyes so blinkered that they can look at the scenes of dreadful grief across the world as levels of infection, serious illness and deaths… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Obviously things have moved on now, but I think part of the problem in central London was crowds of young people flocking to church (what a wonderful thought normally) but only because cafes, pubs etc were closed, and then sitting around and not maintaining social distance,.

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
4 months ago

I guess with a Bishop of London a former nurse and indeed Chief Nursing Officer we might expect something that closes down places of assembly in line with Government advice. With Angusian here- lepers, the poor, oppressed, marginalised …

Oliver
Oliver
4 months ago

Yes, indeed. Thank goodness for someone who understands the gravity of the situation and knows what she’s doing.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago

Throughout my life I have read with horror how access to the Holy of Holies was restricted to the High Priest. It represented everything I hated about organised religion – but was thankfully in the past. I didn’t ever fear that the Church of England would prevent lay members from having any access to altars. Yet, it has now happened. Jesus came into the world and brought a greater presence than the Holy of Holies out into the community. He even allowed them to touch him. That is the seed of Christianity and our heritage. I am not one to… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

If we have encouraged people to rely on altars and priests to get access to God, we have failed them. Every person has access to Jesus anywhere, and all ground is holy. We don’t need any special language, either, our own words will do. We already know of countries where the coronavirus has spread via churches.. It’s not just about numbers attending and how much space is between them, either. Every person entering and leaving a building contaminates surfaces unless they’re wearing protective gear. That poses a risk for others using the building, and for those unlocking and locking up.… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
4 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Well said, Janet.

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
4 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

“If we have encouraged people to rely on altars and priests to get access to God, we have failed them. ” Fantastic message, Ms. Fife. Isn’t that the message of the later books of the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament)? Isn’t that one of the messages of Jesus of Nazareth? If God is everywhere, God can be worshiped anywhere. Yes, communal worship is great and important to the life of the community, but not at the cost of one’s health or endangering others’ health. “If I believe in God, God will protect me from anything” leads to certain American Christian sects… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I’m sorry, Kate, but that’s totally wrong. The seed of Christianity is that the way of Jesus is not a ‘religion’ that relies on altars, temples, holy places and priests. If we’ve made it into that sort of ‘religion’, then we’ve made it something other than NT Christianity. Jesus is present with me when I pray at home. He’s present with me when my wife and I pray together at home. He’s present when I call someone on the phone and we pray together. He’s present when members of my parish gather together via Facebook Live and share in prayer… Read more »

Kate
Kate
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

If the Church of England believed that there would be no priests, no altars, no consecrated ground, no churches and no authorised liturgy.

Yes, we can pray anywhere. Yes, God is everywhere. But can you really not “feel” altars from several feet away?

Tim Chesterton
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

I can’t comment on what the Church of England believes, as I’m a member of the Anglican Church of Canada. I can say with some assurance though that this is what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews believed. And according to its official documents, the Church of England claims to believe the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Can I please stand up for Kate. I don’t always agree with her, but the hard logic in Kate’s questions makes me challenge my own thinking, to my own great benefit. In response to Kate’s comment about lay access to high altars being restricted, Janet wrote “If we have encouraged people to rely on altars and priests to get access to God, we have failed them.” And Tim wrote “I’m sorry, Kate, but that’s totally wrong. The seed of Christianity is that the way of Jesus is not a ‘religion’ that relies on altars, temples, holy places and priests. If… Read more »

Susannah Clark
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

I think the different perspectives may be summed up by the paradox that God is deeply personal but God is also numinous.

Tim Chesterton
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

Ordained, yes, but I didn’t have a seminary education (it’s a long story!), so not ‘trained’ in the usual sense. What I did have was the benefit of early Christian nurture in an evangelical tradition which gave me the gift of the daily Quiet Time (we always used capital letters to denote it!) with God, in the solitary place. Since those early days, ‘Go into your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father in secret’ has always been easy instruction from Jesus for me to follow. If it’s true that the traditions of the Church of England have… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
4 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Kate and Simon, those are fair points. And yes, we have too often done people a disservice by making it appear God is only accessible via special buildings and human mediators. Or perhaps, simply by not correcting misapprehensions. The New Testament teaches us that it’s right to set some people aside for teaching and missionary work, and that it’s also right that those people earn their living from the Gospel. It does not, however, either teach or imply that those so set apart – or ‘ordained’ – are to be the channel by which other people find access to God.… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
4 months ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Can’t possibly cheer loud enough for this, Janet!

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

In the writings of the Baron Von Hugel he says ( I think…from memory) “You wont find God everywhere until you have found him somewhere”

Richard
Richard
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, I think you undermine your argument against closing churches when you say: “Jesus came into the world and brought a greater presence than the Holy of Holies out into the community.”

David Rowett
David Rowett
4 months ago

Welcome, I think, to the world of agonising ethical decision making. It’s field-hospital stuff we’re into, and any aficionado of M*A*S*H will remember how challenging a place that was in which to minister. Is there a hierarchy of rights among the vulnerable? Discuss. I’m not exactly lining up with Bentham here, but the painful truth is that there is no solution to this which will not hurt/endanger one vulnerable group or another: it’s simply a question of which carries the greatest burden at any one time. Lockdowns endanger livelihoods and in some sad cases the pressure-cooker effects in many a… Read more »

Paul Waddington
Paul Waddington
4 months ago

I wonder whether the London Bishops will do what the Pope did and change their minds next day.

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
4 months ago

Given the fact that the Government has ordered the closure of all buildings of all religions across the country I doubt that the London Bishops are going to emulate the Pope, who has, of course, said that he will give an extraordinary blessing on 27th March to those joining him by television, radio and internet. He has also asked Christians of all denominations to join together in the Lord’s Prayer at noon on 25th March.

Kate
Kate
4 months ago

So the Government has now stopped worship and closed churches. It would have been so much better for the church to have waited for this.

RPNewark
RPNewark
4 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Why would it have been so much better to wait? So that the we could pass the buck? … avoid making an unpalatable decision? We will never know how many lives have been saved by the church doing what is right as soon as it believed it was the right thing to do rather than waiting for the decision of a government which has much more on its hands to manage than the churches. Kate, when you make such statements as you have above, it would really help the rest of us to understand where you are coming from if… Read more »

Charles K
Charles K
4 months ago

This is such a wise decision. This whole crisis is about the health of our nation and of the world. I am bewildered by some of the self-absorbed pious comments on here which seem to put some sort of self-legitimating and self-formed bogus theologies above life itself. These half-baked thoughts are based too much on “poor little me”, when we should actually be utterly and exclusively mindful of the health and well-being of those we serve, our neighbours, our families, and those most vulnerable.

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