Updated 5.45 pm Tuesday
The Archdeacon of Hastings, Edward Dowler, has written for the Church Times: Let the clergy pray in their churches. Do read the whole article, but here are some key points (emphasis added):
And the archdeacon concludes:
ONE aspect of the current situation is that guidance is constantly changing as new challenges become clear. My hope is that the Archbishops may see fit to change their guidance also.
Rather than mothball the parish churches, my plea is that clergy might actually be encouraged to visit their parish churches regularly; to pray in them for their parishioners and ring the bell to signify that they are doing so; to live-stream or record services from them as much as possible, given the current restrictions; and to use key features of the churches as teaching aids for those who are currently unable to gather inside them.
Do read the entire article.
Update: The prolocutors of Canterbury and York have issued a letter in support of the bishops. The text is copied below.
A Letter from the Prolocutors of Canterbury and York to the Clergy of the Church of England.
We are writing to you during these extraordinary days as your representatives on Archbishops’ Council and General Synod.
We have the privilege of speaking for you to senior colleagues through the synodical system, which means at times it is right for us to be critical of some decisions and policies.
However, in these unprecedented times, we wish to offer our full and unequivocal support to our Archbishops and Bishops.
As clergy across parishes, chaplaincies, and cathedrals, we are all facing a very new and unprecedented reality. We are being called to exercise our ministry in new ways which will challenge, stretch, and make demands on us, the like of which none of us has seen in our lifetimes. None of us feels adequate to the task, save for the grace and mercy of God.
We have been briefed on some of the wider reasoning for the closure of our cathedrals, churches, and chapels, which we accept is causing some of you to feel angry and perplexed. However, we believe it is right to accept and to take on trust our Bishops and Archbishops in this matter. They do not make these decisions lightly. The points made by those most concerned have, we believe, been part of their consideration in this decision. It is not the time for arguments about whether bishops have a legal right to do this, nor to add extra demands on our Archbishops when they are attempting to lead our response to Coronavirus alongside other faith leaders and to assist the Government in its work. We simply must lead by example by staying in our homes, and demonstrate that we can stay at home, including when leading worship for the people in our care. Every trip we take outside our home endangers life: ours, our family’s, even perfect strangers. Such trips should only be taken for essential ministry.
Many retired colleagues who offer so much support to us in our ministry will not be able to take the usual services as they would wish, and they will need our support now, as they have previously supported us in our ministry. They can still have an active ministry, telephoning people, praying for people, and that will be much appreciated.
We will soon, no doubt, be required to take a massive number of funeral services. They will be unlike any funerals we have ever conducted: few, if any, mourners or congregation, save the essential people working in the funeral industry. We will, perhaps, be preaching to a video camera so that family and friends may be able, albeit in a less personal way, be involved in the service for their loved one, and to receive the comfort of the Christian hope of the Resurrection. The considerations need to be part of our preparation for preaching the Easter hope in a short while.
This ministry will take its toll. There will be colleagues, friends, congregation members, even family who may die. We will need to be resilient, and find strength in our daily prayers. We hope you will also be able to find support from senior clergy where possible, from clergy in networks, and above all from our families and friends.
May God who has called us to this ministry, through the Holy Spirit, give us all the gifts we will need, to rise to the challenges which this pandemic will put before us. And above all else, let us remember that “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The Revd Canon Simon Butler
Prolocutor of the Province of Canterbury,
The Revd Canon Chris Newlands
Prolocutor of the Province of York