As you will be aware, things have been moving fast, and sometimes unpredictably, this week in terms of Government and national church guidance on the re-opening of church buildings. We thought it would be helpful to provide a summary of what you need to know now:
11 June: We published a Coronavirus Briefing summarising a change in Government advice stating that church buildings could open from the 13 June, rather than the previous date of 15 June, and explained that we were waiting on further detailed guidance from the Government on how to open and use church buildings safely.
12 June: Overnight, the anticipated detailed Government guidance was published setting out what activities are permitted in a church building and how we can ensure the safe use of churches during the pandemic.
Today’s long-awaited detailed Government guidance needs to be read in conjunction with the provisional national church guidance already circulated via our website in preparation for re-opening, on such issues as cleaning. This can be found on the diocesan website here.
Despite the confusion, the message remains the same: the guidance is permissive, and not prescriptive.
As Bishop Keith explained in his letter in yesterday’s Coronavirus Briefing, “not everyone will be able to do this and there is no pressure to do what cannot be done.”
If churches are ready to open tomorrow they may of course do so, however, many may wish to wait until 15 June or later, in line with their existing plans.
Although the guidance allows for places of worship to reopen, as always the decision of how and when to begin the process of doing so for individual private prayer should be taken locally.
Separately, as you will also know, the national church has decided that small funerals can take place in church buildings from Monday 15 June, and we have also covered this in the Coronavirus Briefing and on the website.
03 June: Advice on conducting funerals
This is a time of missional opportunity but also great pressure on our clergy and parishes, as we adjust to rapidly-changing circumstances. Please be assured of our prayers, and our profound thanks for the amazing way all our parishes are responding at this unprecedented time.