Coronavirus Info

"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
Bishop Michael

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.

Latest Updates

14 September

Government's Autumn & Winter Plan

The Govermment has published its Covid-19 Response: Autumn & Winter Plan. The CofE website says: "We welcome the publication of the Government's Autumn and Winter plan, recognising the very positive effects of the vaccination campaign and also the ongoing risks posed by Covid-19. We note the Government's commitment that communal worship, weddings, funerals and other commemorative events would not become subject to vaccination certification, even under 'Plan B'. We will continue to monitor the situation as we move towards Christmas."

3 September

Updated guidance on opening church buildings

The Church of England website has updated it's guidance document on Opening and managing church buildings. The CofE website says: "The introduction and situation brief have been updated to reflect the developing situation since the introduction of Step 4 of the Government's roadmap. In this guidance we will try to highlight sensible measures that should apply to most church situations following the latest guidance we have from Government departments and public health bodies."

23 July

Vaccine passports

The Church of England website has an updated Q&A on 'What is the Church of England's position on 'vaccine passports'?

Letter from Bishop Michael

Following the move to Step 4 on Monday, Bishop Michael sent this message to clergy, lay ministers and churchwardens across the diocese:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I am writing to you following the lifting of nearly all COVID-19 restrictions at the beginning of this week. While this is a step towards normality, I recognise that it also creates uncertainty and may generate concerns, particularly in how it relates to the ordering of our churches. There will be many decisions to be made in the coming days and weeks; I hope that the following points will be of some help to you in navigating these.

Principles

Now that the legally binding framework of governmental regulation has all but disappeared, the central principle has become that of informed local decision making which takes sensible account of continuing risk factors. Changes in arrangements for churches do not have to happen all at once, let alone by this coming Sunday. I recognise that the situation will continue to change and we will all need to continue to adapt and evolve practice in the coming months. In the decisions that will face you, I would encourage you to attend especially to the importance of consultation, clarity and communication.

Consultation – decisions will need to be made regarding access to churches and patterns of worship; these should generally be made by the incumbent/priest-in-charge, churchwardens and PCC jointly. You may also want to engage in a wider consultation with the worshipping congregation; the views of those who are particularly vulnerable should be given due weight in this. In the case of parishes in vacancy, churchwardens and PCCs are advised to consult with their Rural Dean or Assistant Rural Dean.

Clarity – it is a help for everybody if decisions are clearly stated, their rationale explained, and questions or concerns openly addressed. If changes are subsequently made to agreed arrangements, these too should be clearly signalled.

Communication – arrangements should be made known through clear, welcoming signs in church buildings, on noticeboards, and through website and social media where appropriate. It is important that information is readily available not only to the regular worshipping congregation, but to others in the community or further afield, particularly those who may be involved in occasional offices.

Arrangements for worship

Although most legal restrictions have now been lifted, churches can still recommend, request and encourage safety measures where appropriate, to keep themselves and others safe, and to help people feel more secure. I encourage you to address this through completing a simple risk assessment which takes account of the changed circumstances we are now in. A straightforward version is available on the Church of England website. While it is no longer possible to rely on governmental legislation to enforce arrangements in church, it is within the authority and responsibility of incumbents, acting in consultation as above, to set out how people are expected to conduct themselves in church. Agreed norms should be clearly conveyed to individuals, and this is likely to be particularly important for weddings, baptisms and funerals, especially when people are travelling from outside of the local area. Where possible, I would suggest that you ask the families of the couple or the deceased for their support in implementing any recommended measures, and when such support is forthcoming, mention in notices before the service that they give their support for measures to continue to protect each other as they take part in the service.

The Church of England has very recently published guidance covering a wide range of issues in church life, and I urge you to read this through carefully. I would particularly encourage you to consider that there may be a strong case for continuing to implement measures such as hand sanitisation, the use of face coverings, social distancing, and one-way systems for people flow. Decisions on singing, whether at regular services or occasional offices, rest ultimately with the incumbent, acting in consultation with others. In a vacancy, the churchwardens, in consultation with the rural dean and the PCC, should make these decisions to ensure consistency between services. If you feel that contention is likely to arise in relation to this or other areas of church life, your archdeacon will be happy to provide counsel and support.

In regard to celebration of Holy Communion, the Church of England guidance makes clear that it is still possible for ministers not to offer the common cup at this stage of the pandemic’s existence. Where the cup continues to be withheld from general circulation, it is possible either to administer the sacrament to people under the form of bread alone, or to distribute in both kinds using the method of ‘Simultaneous Administration commended by the Archbishops.

Where some people in a congregation feel particularly vulnerable, it may be worth considering the introduction of a system of ‘zoning’ in churches to allow an area of social distancing (churchwardens have the power to allocate seating, and to maintain order in the church and churchyard). Care should also be taken to ensure that churches remain well-ventilated and are regularly and thoroughly cleaned.

During the period of restrictions, the large uptake in online worship has been a blessing to many, especially to those who cannot attend church physically. I do encourage you to consider how online provision for this can be continued where possible – including working with others across your deanery to share the load. You might find it interesting to watch this video featuring our diocesan disability adviser Zoe Heming.

Clergy and lay ministers

I am aware that deregulation will create further work for all involved in ministry, at a time when many of you will already be feeling very tired. I do hope that you will find time this summer to have restful and recreative time away, and I would encourage you to make this a priority in consultation with your colleagues. The devolution of decision making to the local level may also create some situations which prove difficult to negotiate; be assured that I, my brother and sister bishops, and our archdeacons will be ready to offer counsel and support when you feel that would be helpful.

I also recognise that some ministers will themselves have particular vulnerabilities in the current situation. Please do consider that your own welfare and safety are entirely proper factors to weigh in the decisions which you may be called on to make. If you do not feel comfortable taking services, or are clinically vulnerable, please do work with colleagues in the deanery to seek alternative cover. Please also consider practical safety measures which you could take when taking services – for example: wearing a face covering where appropriate; positioning yourself physically further from the congregation than you usually might; not always standing directly facing the congregation. These precautions might be particularly important when there is congregational singing. I also encourage you to follow any individual advice you may receive on personal self-isolation.

Advice

The Church of England’s national advice for churches can be found here. It is worth checking back to this from time to time, as it is regularly updated – as is our own diocesan website.

If you find you need further guidance or support on particular issues, please do not hesitate to contact your archdeacon.

With my sister and brother bishops, I am truly grateful for all that you do to grow and sustain the lives of our churches, to adapt to constantly changing situations, and to keep the faith of Jesus Christ which is the sure ground of our hope. Please pray for us, as we pray for each one of you.

With my warm good wishes,

+Michael

16 July

Updated guidance for Step 4

The Church of England website has been updated with the following:

New documents:

Updated documents:

Please also see a statement from the Bishop of London

The Government has also updated its guidance on funerals and commemorative events from Monday, 19 July, when we move into Step 4.

15 July

Updated Government wedding guidance

The Government has updated its guidance on weddings and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations from Step 4 (Monday 19 July).

Other guidance and resources

Church Buildings during Covid-19

Occasional Offices

The latest legal advice on a range of matters during the pandemic.

The Ministry Shift

A 15-minute live video resource for the support of ordained and lay ministers

Virtual worship and resources

Online ministry urgently came to the fore as the first lockdown arrived, and many parishes have made huge and effective strides into online ministry, with aspects that many hope will be retained as the pandemic eases. There's a whole new section on our website to support that.

Here is also a selection of national and local broadcasts and streams of services, studies and meditation. Also:

Safeguarding during the covid-19 lockdown

Congregations continue to serve their communities and each other - but we must still have due regard for safeguarding our children and vulnerable adults

Finance and Covid-19

Advice and details for parishes including:

Pastoral Care and support

Our Wellbeing support for clergy, diocesan staff and their families continues to work - see here for details including specific advice on wellbeing through lockdown.

And our Education team put together a support page around ‘Loss and Change’ and Covid19, drawing together recommended resources that are particular focused on schools but could be used by churches too. You can find them on the website here.

Schools

Our colleagues who serve the 108 CofE schools in the diocese have lots of information and resources here.

Space to Think

Hundreds of people visited our Space For Learning page where Bishop Michael invited all ministers, clergy and lay people to engage between 1 and 12 June 2020.

Each week day during that time, there was an opportunity to take part in different ways of learning with the theme of Being in Community. Through talks, films, art, poetry, reading and discussion we are engaging with some of the key questions of what it means for Christians to be in community, how we can build communities and what community means at a time of social distancing.

We've now moved that resource along with others that are helpful and thoughtful beyond the immediate demands of daily ministry into a new section called Space to Think which will collect similar resources over time: the first addition being the spring 2021 Bread of Life series as all the bishops in the diocese take time to unpack the various aspects of Holy Communion.


Page last updated: 14th September 2021 4:12 PM