As you may have heard, the House of Bishops has asked diocesan bishops to issue guidance on the gradual easing of restrictions on our buildings and activities whilst our church buildings need to remain closed. I am therefore able to issue some new permissive guidance:

Incumbents, or rural deans where there is no incumbent, can, in consultation with their churchwardens and bearing in mind their specific location, appoint one person for each church in their benefice to enter that church building. The appointed person should be the incumbent or a licensed or authorised minister, minister with permission to officiate, churchwarden, or, where there is no churchwarden, one member of the PCC.

The appointed person should be entering the church building for any or all of the following

  1. pray the daily office and/or celebrate the Eucharist on behalf of the community they serve,
  2. live stream or pre-record worship,
  3. ring one bell to mark prayers being said or mark events (e.g. Clap for Carers, VE day anniversary),
  4. check the fabric of the building.

The church should be near to where the appointed person lives and he or she may be accompanied by members of the household with whom they are living. The door should be locked whilst they are in the building.

Consideration should be given to what cleaning will be needed to make our churches safe. Gates and door handles should be disinfected. Extra care should be taken for churches that have no running water.

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.

Our priority must be to act responsibly so as to safeguard ourselves and other people from infection. If you have any questions then please address them to your archdeacon or Bishop Martin.

Please be assured that if you are content for the time being to lead worship from home, having set everything up to that end, you should feel under no obligation to switch back to the church. Likewise, it is perfectly fine to continue sharing services which are recorded or streamed by colleagues.

I hope in the coming weeks, if new COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline and subject to a change in Government restrictions, to offer guidance for opening our churches for parishioners and visitors to enter for private prayer. We long to open our churches for public worship but I fear that is some way off.

God’s love in Jesus is unchanging but in these strange times we are called to learn new ways to proclaim the Gospel afresh in this generation.

With my very good wishes,

Yours,

+John

Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester

Read more about the House of Bishop's decision

Read advice from the Church of England regarding accessing your church building during lockdown.