"Thank you for the hope you are bringing in these challenging times. Please do read through the most recent guidance. As we explain below, I and my fellow bishops recognise that clergy and lay leaders will be those best placed to assess the local situation and to make informed decisions accordingly which prioritise safety while sustaining the life of the church. If you have any questions, please contact your archdeacon."
Updated guidance will be on the national Church of England website as and when it is available.
We will also include any new guidance in our twice-monthly email Bulletin which is written for clergy and other church leaders, staff and volunteers in Lichfield Diocese. Click here to subscribe.
Updates to national guidance
The Church of England website has updated its Opening and Managing Church Buildings guidance to include a revised situation report and changes in government guidance on risk assessments, also stating: "As national case numbers remain high it is important that, while we should continue to offer Holy Communion in both kinds, no pressure is placed on individual members of congregations to receive the sacrament if they feel unable to do so."
Communion in both kinds
The Church of England website has updated its Opening & Managing Church Buildings document with guidance on the administration of Holy Communiuon to clarify that, unless there are clear and objective reasons not to, Holy Communion should be offered in both kinds to communicants.
Lateral flow tests
We've been advised that lateral flow tests are an allowable expense for employees and can be claimed back in expenses. There's more information on the Government website.
Updated CofE advice
Lent, Holy Week & Easter & QR codes
There isn't specific guidance around Ash Wednesday this year. With the removal of all restrictions, churches can chose to follow their practice pre-pandemic if they wish or recommend additional precautions based on how they risk assess the service.
The Church of England's general guidance includes suggested precautions churches can consider when planning services. Aerosol production is one of the most significant risks so face coverings when in close contact or crowded situations plus good ventilation may be a more effective precaution than avoiding touch with the application of ashes.
The QR venue check-in system was withdrawn in February 2022, so posters are no longer required.
Removing the last domestic restrictions
The Government will remove remaining domestic restrictions in England, subject to parliamentary scrutiny. The legal requirement to self-isolate comes to an end today but current government guidance advises anyone testing positive for Covid-19 to remain at home wherever possible for five days.
The new guidance says the Government will: "Remove the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test. Adults and children who test positive will continue to be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. After 5 days, they may choose to take a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) followed by another the next day - if both are negative, and they do not have a temperature, they can safely return to their normal routine."
This Church of England website's Covid guidance page will remain as a point of reference for the time being, and they are in the process of updating documentation including advice on church buildings, risk assessment and cleaning church buildings to reflect the current situation.
Lifting of remaining Covid-19 restrictions
The Bishop of London has responded to the Prime Minister's announcement setting out the Government's plans including lifting remaining Covid-19 restrictions.
Bishop Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement that Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted holds out the hopeful prospect of the end of the pandemic but will nonetheless raise concerns for some.
“The last two years have challenged us again and again but also taught us how we can do many things differently and heightened our awareness of how we transmit disease. People have made huge sacrifices and I would like, again, to say thank you to our NHS and front-line workers, our clergy, parish volunteers and congregations for all you have done.
“Your actions - whether noticed or unnoticed, big or small - have been the glue which has held our communities and our nation together during this time of great need. I recognise the pandemic has had a major impact on people’s well-being, and the need to look out for each other is as great if not greater than ever.
“Although the legal restrictions are being lifted, there may be good reason for us to take some measures as individuals and as local churches. I am conscious that some people with medical conditions will be more fearful now that compulsory isolation for those who are likely to be infectious is ending and we should not lose our focus on the most vulnerable.
“We’ve much to be thankful for - not least the vaccines which have been a real answer to prayer. They are more vital than ever, both here and around the world."
New Church of England advice
Its introduction says: "...we are moving from a pandemic towards an endemic situation where emergency measures are not required. However, places of worship may decide to bring in optional precautions based on their own risk assessment to protect others and themselves." (see also page 4)
Regading face coverings, it says: "Face coverings are no longer mandatory in any setting but may be recommended in enclosed or crowded places, particularly where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet." (page 2).
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, has thanked parishes for their public sacrifices which have saved lives as Plan B measures are about to end.