Updated 26th February 2021
We remain thankful that by not prohibiting people gathering for worship in church during this new lockdown, the government has recognised the deep significance of our spiritual wellbeing.
However, like you, we are aware of the worsening situation in our hospitals. Yesterday England’s Chief Medical Officer said clearly that ‘the next few weeks are going to be the worst for the National Health Service’ and again urged us all to ‘minimise unnecessary social contacts’. We are reminded by St Paul that ‘All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial’ (1 Cor 12: 23) and as such we are to use our freedom with a deep care for the other.
From the messages we have received, it is clear that the majority of parishes in the Diocese have already taken the decision to move all worship online either from home or from the church building with just those leading worship present. We assume this will remain the case over the coming weeks. Be assured this has our full support.
Given the developing situation, we are now asking that the incumbent (or in a vacancy, the churchwardens) of any parishes or communities that wish to continue worship in a church building, with a congregation present, be in touch with their Archdeacon so we can support you in making good local decisions. Please remember the guidance requires that people stay local and therefore we should not be encouraging anyone to travel to worship. The updated government guidance is here.
We understand that in addition to this some parishes, where you are confident that the building can be Covid secure, will continue to want to make the church available for funerals, subject to the present guidance, including a limit of 30 on the numbers of those attending, and we are supportive of this. Please note baptisms in church are not permitted by the present guidance, though of course should be offered at home or arrangements made with the chaplains in hospital in the case of the prospect of imminent death. Similarly, weddings are prohibited except in extremis. If you have any questions please again contact your Archdeacon.
We know that these are difficult times and the decision not to meet in the church building is a great sacrifice to make. To do so willingly, we believe, is a sign of our solidarity with those we are called to serve. Furthermore, we continue to be encouraged and inspired by the many ways people are daily living out Christ’s love and hope in local engagement with the needs of local people and places, often in partnership with other groups and organisations. All this is rooted in our continued confidence in the Gospel and the hope we have in Christ who came that we might have life and have it to the full. Our starting place is prayer.
This comes as always with our thanks for the ministry in which we share and the assurance of our prayer for you
Please pray again with us
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.