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Updated Guidance regarding our church buildings

Letter from Bishop Dagmar - 6 May 2020

Dear Colleagues

You may have heard in the media that there was a (virtual) House of Bishops meeting yesterday in which we reflected on the latest developments in the Covid-19 crisis. The bishops are moving forward together but recognise that the context of each diocese is different. Nonetheless, the consensus reached was rather clearer than the press statement might have led you to believe. The following guidance for the Diocese of Ely is issued in concord with this consensus.

It is clear that there is still a long way to go, therefore our church buildings must remain closed.

There continues to be no permission to conduct baptisms, weddings or funerals.

While this is sad and especially difficult for those isolated and grieving, we also rejoice in God’s continued activity in our churches in upper rooms and at kitchen tables, in Zoom Bible study and prayer groups, in countless acts of neighbourliness and community support. Thank you for all you are contributing to this.

Statistics are also telling us that the lockdown is bearing fruit. We must be prudent and not squander this gain.

In the light of this and carefully weighing up the risk factors, you are now advised that you may consider the following:

  • Incumbents, or rural deans where there is no incumbent, can in consultation with the relevant churchwardens and bearing in mind their specific location, appoint one person for each church in their benefice to enter that church building (the same person for any day, ie not one person for three days and another for the weekend).
  • The appointed person should be the incumbent or another clergyperson or LLM or churchwarden or, where there is no churchwarden, a member of the PCC.
  • The appointed person should be entering the church building for any or all of the following o on behalf of the community they serve, pray the Daily Office and/or celebrate the Eucharist
    • live stream or pre-record worship,
    • ring one bell to mark prayers being said or to mark events (eg Clap for Carers, VE day anniversary),
    • check the fabric of the building.
  • The appointed person may enter the church building together with members of their household with whom they are living, and the door should be locked.
  • The church should be near to where the appointed person lives and a visit should generally be part of their daily exercise.
  • Clergy and lay leaders, especially those with underlying health problems, or who are shielding people in their household with such problems, should not feel under any obligation to do this themselves, nor should anyone be asked who is in one of the government’s risk categories.
  • Please consider carefully what cleaning will be needed to make our churches safe (eg bat, mice and rat faeces, mould spores, dust, legionella disease in water systems, as well as disinfecting gates and doorhandles etc).
  • We are grateful to those churches that are hosting foodbanks and similar community activities which of course continue.
  • Those who are grieving may visit graves in churchyards, keeping social distance if they are not from the same household.
  • Contractors: you may consider allowing any contractors into the church building. If so, they can go on site subject to HSE guidelines, such government advice as may be in force and their own dynamic risk assessment. Obviously, the church will need to remain locked while they are inside, care should be taken over hygiene of doorhandles etc.

Thank you for your cooperation and support so far which has been tremendous.

The Journey ahead

As we go on this long journey of a gradual staged easing of restrictions over the next months, we will find that this is going to be a complex process, managing risks, hopes and expectations.

We will count on your continued support for both letter and spirit of the guidance as it is updated, so that together we can set an example of a community of faith that is informed, as safe as possible from the risk of infection, and loving.

We would also like to assure you that if you are content with leading worship from home for the time being, having set everything up to that end, you should feel under no obligation to switch back into the church for the worship. Likewise, it is perfectly good practice to continue sharing online services which are recorded or streamed by colleagues elsewhere – in fact, your cooperation is encouraged!

We will be in touch as soon as possible when there is further updated guidance.

I will turn the darkness before them into light,

the rough places into level ground.

These are the things I will do,

and I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

This is the Moravian Watchword for today. In this God is our hope and our faith, and this Spirit fuels our love for our church and for all our communities.

God bless you all richly.


Bishop of Huntingdon

Page last updated: Wednesday 6th May 2020 2:14 PM
First published on: 6th May 2020
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