(7th May 2020)
been a press release to the media saying the following.
Further guidance about ministers entering churches
|To: Beneficed and licensed clergy, |
Clergy with Permission to Officiate
Licensed and authorised lay ministers
From: Bishop Simon Burton-Jones, Bishop of Tonbridge
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I hope you and your households are keeping well.
Thank you so much for the faith and imagination that you have each put into the exercise of ministry through the crisis. Though we knew a major pandemic was always possible, few had given any attention to its potential impact, and yet the way you have adapted your calling has been fluid, innovative and loving. I, and countless others, are so appreciative.
The ministry that lies ahead of us will be shaped by the many changes starting to happen to the country and it is important that we give good space to discussing these between ourselves in the weeks and months ahead.
You will be aware that the House of Bishops met on Tuesday 5 May to discuss the Church of England’s response to the potential easing of restrictions.
Church buildings continue to remain closed for public worship, but the House of Bishops agreed to a phased approach to lifting restrictions that will be in step with the government’s approach, with each diocesan Bishop deciding on the timing of the implementations.
I am now able to issue guidance about the first phase of an easing of restrictions on the use of our buildings, which is with immediate effect:
- Church buildings will continue to remain closed for public worship.
- Incumbents, or area deans in a period of vacancy, may, in consultation with their churchwardens, appoint one person for each church in their benefice to enter the building. They may be joined by any other members of their own household.
- The appointed person should be the incumbent or a licensed or authorised minister, minister with PTO, churchwarden, worship leader or, where none of these are available, one member of the PCC. The appointed person and any household members joining them should be under 70 years of age and not required to shield.
- The appointed person may enter the building to:
- Pray the daily offices
- Live stream or pre-record worship
- Celebrate the Eucharist on behalf of the community
- Ring one bell from the ground floor to announce prayers being said
- Check the fabric of the building in the course of these duties
The person appointed (allowing for the possible presence of members of their household) is the only one who may do this. It is not a role that can be shared with others.
Necessary precautions round hygiene should be taken and the national Church has issued guidance on this which can be found here.
It will also be available in due course on the Church of England website.
Please be sure to reflect on this guidance; it relates to issues presented by each phase of the return and step by step plans should be made to address each phase.
There may be ministers who feel uneasy about returning to their churches right now to accomplish any of the above. Please be assured that if this is how you feel, there is no onus on you to return to church at this point and worship can continue to be offered from home. This position is fully understandable.
At the same time, I know that there are many who will welcome this first step out of lockdown.
There are two further phases we have not yet reached but which it is helpful to set out, so we are aware. These phases can only be implemented sequentially when there are changes in government restrictions.
Phase two would likely allow for some ceremonies like weddings and funerals. This may include the use of the building for private prayer around bereavement and remembering. Social distancing and hygiene precautions would need to be taken, necessarily impacting on numbers who may attend.
Phase three would likely allow for limited congregations to meet, subject to social distancing and other potential restrictions.
It is inevitable that government will issue further guidance, not least, it seems, on Sunday 10 May. This means the guidance I offer may also need to adapt quite quickly to changing national plans, and this will be forthcoming where necessary.
The most important thing is that people feel safe and are safe in what they are doing, and that their actions contribute to the safety and well-being of others.
There are many unexpected outcomes from major crises. One for the Church has been the unexpected digital reach of our services. I would encourage those with the capacity to deliver this, to continue to develop in creativity.
We will be able to reflect together in time on what this means for our life and witness in time. Whether a church has this capacity or not should not be a cause for regret, for we know that ‘the word of God is not chained’ (2 Timothy 2:9) and that the Holy Spirit will be doing a lasting and graceful work in the hearts of many.
This is our encouragement and our hope.
In finishing, Bishop James has asked me to let you know that he has recently developed some relatively mild symptoms of possible Covid-19. If he does have the infection, it may well have been contracted in the course of weekly shopping. He has not as yet been able to have a test but will now be off sick for at least the next week.
I know you will join me in praying for a good recovery, along with prayers for so many others in our community.
If you have any queries about the guidance in this letter, please be in touch in the first instance with your archdeacon.
The Archdeacons, Bishopscourt staff and I will deal with these and other matters that would otherwise go to Bishop James.
With prayers for you all.
|Simon, Bishop of Tonbridge.|
Full ramifications of this statement can be found using the link contacted with in the statement
Fr Stephen sent out his message
to the congregation of St Francis, so please click on the link to read.
It would also be fool hardy attempt to try and update information on a day by day basics for posting to this site, so again here the links to the
Church of England Website
The Rochester Diocese Website