For the latest guidance in full, please visit www.churchofengland.org/coronavirus
10 December 2021
The Church of England has updated its guidance on opening and managing church buildings in the light of the government's new restrictions
These are the main points, but please do read the full guidance here.
Face coverings are currently mandatory on public transport and in a range of indoor venues including places of worship. While there are exemptions, this is a legal requirement.
You do not need to wear a face covering if you have a legitimate reason not to:
- There are exemptions on wearing face coverings for those leading a service or giving a reading.
- There is a reasonable excuse exemption which allows people to remove a face covering whilst singing if they wish to do so. However congregations may wish to consider the use of face coverings while singing depending on the local circumstances.
- These exemptions will also cover the bride and groom at a wedding and those officiating at the wedding.
- These exemptions are made to enable communication, particularly with those who rely on lip-reading, facial expressions or clear sound; they do not exempt clergy and other leaders from wearing face coverings in other situations or during other activities.
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering when asked:
- If asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification
- If speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication.
The responsibility for making decisions about how to proceed lies with the incumbent. This applies to acts of worship, to events run by the PCC or church community, and to decisions on whether to hire out spaces or allow other events to proceed. Incumbents should feel empowered to make locally appropriate decisions, including taking different approaches to different types of services and events where the risks may vary. Your archdeacon may be able to help if you would appreciate support with this.
- Open as a visitor attraction
- Sing in church (including congregational singing, and choirs and worship groups can perform without legal limitations.)
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who leads the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, has urged people to take steps now to protect each other as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.
Bishop Sarah was speaking as updated guidance for churches was published.
She said: "As we look forward to celebrating again the coming of Jesus into our world, we can do so with hope.
"Few of us imagined when we first heard of the coronavirus at the beginning of last year that we would now be approaching our second Christmas of a global pandemic.
"The recent emergence of the new Omicron variant and the evidence already we’ve seen of its rapid spread is a cause of real concern.
"And while we are hugely thankful for the rapid development and mass rollout of the vaccines - and the current booster programme - there are important steps we should take now to protect ourselves and each other.
"As Christians we have a duty to care for one another, especially those who are most vulnerable, and the latest measures announced by the Government should offer some extra protection and reassurance for people.
"Caring for one another, sharing, hope, faith and most of all the knowledge that God is with us are at the heart of Christmas.
"This Christmas we will be coming together – whether in person or online – to worship God and celebrate his coming into the world as a human being like us.
"Amid all that we have been through together in the last two years that hope is as strong as ever."
5 October 2021
Guidance on Remembrance Sunday services
There are no specific restrictions around Remembrance Sunday services. Please refer to the CofE general guidance for worship and liaise with any participating organisations when planning to conduct services in a safe way.
As these services are major community and civic events, where numbers are often increased, it is recommended that any additional precautions should be clearly explained for the benefit of everyone present.
The Royal British Legion has specifically forbidden Remembrance marches or parades. This does not affect holding an act of Remembrance. Remembrance marches or parades must be organised by the local authority which (if it agrees to do them) will sort out road closures and insurance. If you have any queries, please contact your archdeacon.
5 October 2021
Guidance for pastoral visiting to individuals' homes and care homes
With the lifting of restrictions, the rules for visiting people in their homes are largely the same as they were before the pandemic, but visitors are strongly advised to take additional precautions particularly where any of the people involved in the visit are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable.
Following government guidance, this may include considering if the people involved have been fully vaccinated, social distancing, lateral flow testing before visiting, face coverings and making sure there is good ventilation. Holy Communion can be given at home, but strict hand hygiene should be observed.
For regular visitors to care homes, there is a requirement from 11 November 2021 that they are fully vaccinated and show proof of that vaccination. They will also need to comply with the requirements of the care home on aspects such as PPE, hygiene and social distancing. People do not need to show proof of vaccination or exemption if they are visiting a resident who is dying (that is in their last days of life) or providing comfort or support to a resident following the death of a relative or friend. For more details, please see the government’s guidance here.
21 September 2021
Publication of the UK Government's Autumn and Winter plan
Following the publication of the government’s Autumn and Winter plan, the Church of England issued this statement:
“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.”.
>> HM Government: Covid-19 response – Autumn and Winter plan [PDF]
21 September 2021
CofE Coronavirus guidance page update
The Coronavirus guidance page of the CofE website has been updated with the removal of all the resources labelled as 'previous' guidance.
If you find yourself in need of any of the documentation, the key documents are available on the Diocese of Derby website or contact email@example.com.
27 July 2021
Update on the Parish Support Office (Derby Church House)
The Parish Support Office staff have been working from home since March 2020. As the government have now encouraged office-based workers to return to workplaces from 19 July 2021, colleagues are now working a hybrid model of office and home-based with strict covid safety procedures being adhered to by all staff, which include limiting the number of people in the building at any time.
Currently, whilst we regularly assess the covid safety protocols, the Parish Support Office is not open to visitors. We hope to open our doors again to visitors and guests from September and will notify you accordingly.
27 July 2021
Emerging from the pandemic - pastoral principles
We commend the following pastoral principles, adapted from suggestions made by the Rector of All Saints' Church, Northampton (Diocese of Peterborough):
- The advice from government and the national church sets out what is possible and how to think it through, not what must be done.
- Change does not need to take place all at once. Some changes will take time. Work out what to do first and deliver that. Carry others with you and seek consent.
- There is no time limit. Resist the temptation to respond to requests for a timetable and only give undertakings for the short term. Be prepared to change course.
- Recognise in yourself and others the fears that will come with change (and from no change).
- Fix your eyes on those who are vulnerable in any way. Risk assessments must address the whole people of God.
- Remember your online congregation and continue to offer a livestream where possible.
- Be prepared for pastoral complexity – this will involve stilling some storms, correcting some misunderstandings, helping people to think of the needs of others, and the reality of contradictory demands from different parts of the church. Hold them together – they all belong.
Echoing the above, and giving more context, we have produced a simple Post Covid-19 restrictions and the liturgy FAQs which may be useful for parishes, incumbents and PCCs as decisions are made locally following post covid-19 restrictions.
>> Post Covid-19 restrictions and the liturgy FAQs [PDF]
23 July 2021
CofE position on 'vaccine passports’
The Church has adopted a clear policy of encouraging people to be vaccinated, but, other than in very exceptional circumstances, it would be difficult for it to justify limiting access to church services or organisations on the basis of vaccine passports. Such an approach would run contrary to the principle of the Church being a home and a refuge for all. Similarly, only in exceptional circumstances is the Church likely to utilise ‘vaccine passports’ should they become available in order to facilitate additional services to its members or to the wider community, preferring to continue to emphasise existing mitigations.
While the Church is, in principle, opposed to making use of ‘vaccine passports’, it should adopt a flexible approach to their limited wider use with the important caveats that such use ought to be demonstrably beneficial to society as a whole, protective of the vulnerable in particular, non-discriminatory in nature and proportionate in use.
For more information, please see the CofE submission to the Government's consultation on vaccine certification.
23 July 2021
CCCBR bell ringing guidance
The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers (CCCBR) has issued ringing guidance effective from Monday, 19 July 2021. It has been agreed with the House of Bishops Recovery Group.
Restrictions have largely been released, although there is still guidance on such matters as facemasks in certain circumstances, and the importance of ventilation in towers. There are no longer restrictions on how long you ring for, or with how many other people.
>> CCCBR summary ringing guidance
20 July 2021
Bishop of London urges caution and pays tribute to vaccinators as restrictions lift
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, has encouraged churches and individuals to continue to take precautions to protect the vulnerable from Covid-19. She was speaking as guidance was issued by the Church of England to help churches prepare for stage 4 of the Government's roadmap for the lifting of restrictions.
Bishop Sarah, who chairs the Church of England's Recovery Group, said: “The relaxation of restrictions on Monday is only possible because of the vaccination programme which has reduced the percentage of those with Covid who become seriously ill or die.
"We are indebted to all who have developed and administered the vaccines and we encourage anyone who has not yet done so to take advantage of the protection they offer.
“Many will welcome the possibilities now before us, not least increased numbers at life events and a long awaited return of congregational and amateur choir singing.
“However, this is a difficult point in the course of the pandemic. Despite vaccination rates, cases are up, hospital admissions are up and long covid remains an ongoing concern. Therefore our approach needs to be cautious and careful.
“Taking personal responsibility means responsibility for our neighbour, not just for ourselves, and taking precautions to protect those more vulnerable than we consider ourselves to be. Local church leaders know their communities and their own circumstances, and we will support them making local decisions to keep themselves and their community safe. We would ask everyone to support those making local decisions and respect risk assessments, which are in place to protect everyone as we enter the next phase.“
20 July 2021
Opening and managing church buildings in step 4 of the Roadmap out of Lockdown
New CofE guidance has been written in response to the decision by the Government to move to step 4 of the ‘Roadmap out of Lockdown’. The move to step 4 from 19 July means we are being asked to take even more personal responsibility around coronavirus than when we were compelled to adhere to Government restrictions. This must be especially so in the context of the current spike in infections.
Whilst nationally restrictions have been eased, there is no obligation for churches to return, in the immediate future, to what used to be ‘normal’ - in fact, we have been urged to exercise caution as infection rates continue to rise, and to think especially of those who are anxious or particularly vulnerable.
As churches decide how best to manage the risk to ourselves and others, clergy and PCCs are best placed to know their own communities and environments, and particularly to understand and respond to the needs of those who are most uncertain at this time.
There is particular concern about changes to the administration of Holy Communion. Although reception in both kinds is now permissible, caution is strongly encouraged. The understandable desire from some in congregations to have things as they used to be should not make others feel pushed into behaviours which make them feel unsafe or ‘second-best’. We recognise that many will not yet want to share the common cup, and consideration must be given greatest risk is to those required to consume remaining consecrated wine following distribution. Holy Communion may be received in both kinds simultaneously by the priest intincting the bread into wine for each communicant. And reception by congregants of the bread alone remains, as always, full communion. The bishops will continue to support clergy, and wardens in vacancy, who make local decisions, to make adaptations slowly.
It is recognised that it may be difficult within some parishes to agree exactly what to do and how to come to a decision on a specific point. Working through the attached documentation will help make informed and considerate choices about all aspects of our common life under these new circumstances. If difficulties arise care and support is available, in the first instance, from Area Deans or Archdeacons.
>> Opening and managing church buildings in step 4 of the Roadmap out of Lockdown [PDF]
20 July 2021
Updated CofE guidance
>> Test and Trace
>> Risk assessment template for opening church buildings
This risk assessment template is intended for use from 19 July onwards. As step 4 sees the easing of all legal restrictions it is recommended that risk assessments currently in place are re-run to ensure they fit the new circumstances.
There is no longer a requirement for Archdeacons to sign off updated risk assessments, however they remain available for advice on an individual basis for those who need particular and additional support.
2 July 2021
Churches Visitor and Tourism Association June Newsletter
In the June 2021 Newsletter, Canon John Brown from The Churches Visitor and Tourism Association poses a lot of questions about the challenges of how we can “open the doors” of our church buildings and become a “pit stop” resourcing both our congregants and occasional visitors in our current situation as restrictions ease.
- In light of the pandemic, where can we best minister to our communities and visitors and tourists to bring the good news to our secular age?
- How can we best navigate from shut buildings and being online to open buildings and the added work of maintaining an online presence?
- How will we manage changes in public attitudes to risk as we open our buildings? What does the gospel offer to the questions of risk, uncertainty, bereavement, being an unwitting carrier?
- How can we resource our open buildings so that congregants, visitors and tourists find comfort, hope, and a sense that God is with them in their plight?
- Names displayed of those who have died
- Prayer resources for different emotions
- Scriptural resources and poetry
He quotes Revd Lucy Winkett from St James Piccadilly from a recent article in Church Times, who says that now more than ever church buildings matter as sacred spaces allowing honest conversation, whispered prayer, and public ritual, to place each of us as a small part in a much bigger story.
Revd Rhoda Blackwell
Assistant Curate, Newbold Parish Church
Updated 19 May 2021
Extension of Church Closure
The present blanket extension was due to end after 16 May 2021. Bishop Libby has agreed that churches may continue to stay closed, if the incumbent and PCC so wish, until 30 June 2021. This will give time to assess the impact of any government announcements which are scheduled to be made on 17 May 2021 and on or in advance of 21 June 2021.
During the intervening period, churches should discuss their proposals for re-opening with their area deans and archdeacons. A risk assessment will need to be completed and approved by the relevant archdeacon before a church may re-open.
It would be helpful if those churches which are already open would confirm that fact to Nicky Fenton, Bishop's Chaplain, and Cathy Luffman, the archdeacons’ P.A., so that an accurate picture can be formed of what is happening across the diocese.
Revd Nicky Fenton can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathy Luffman can be contacted at email@example.com