Access to church buildings for clergy
Updated Mon 11th May 2020
You will have seen the House of Bishop’s announcement on access to church buildings.
The decision on when to initiate this change was devolved to individual bishops.
Bishop Libby is now content to allow clergy to enter church buildings for the purpose of private prayer and streaming of a service, but only if they wish to do so. Members of the priest’s household may also enter if this is necessary for streaming.
All are asked to closely follow the guidance on the document “Advice for clergy on re-entering closed church buildings”.
Further updates may happen later in the week following the government guidance issued today and the advice to employers due later this week.
There is no expectation for clergy to enter buildings, but they may choose to do so if beneficial.
Advice for parishes
For advice to churches about how to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, please check the information below and the relevant pages on the national Church of England website here: churchofengland.org/coronavirus.
Do bookmark the national C of E page and keep visiting it. The situation is developing, and new advice is being added all the time.
The latest guidelines about church closures came in a letter from the Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England on March 24, which you can download here. In summary:
- Our church buildings are closed for public worship and private prayer;
- There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice;
- Funerals can only happen at a crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend.
Do read the Q & A section on the national C of E website here for more details, including advice about streaming worship and prayer from home, and other digital resources you can use.
This national Church of England advice about coronavirus is based on guidance from Public Health England and the government recommendations about staying at home.
The Discipleship, Mission and Ministry team is maintaining a page of Ideas and Inspiration for churches and parishes
>> Church building closed poster [Word doc]
One of the options during the coronavirus outbreak is for clergy or ministers to offer liturgy, prayer and teaching from their own homes.
You can read some of the advice about recording video material and live streaming here.
And please see our list of forthcoming live-streams in the diocese.
A number of parishes have asked about the delivery of parish magazines, pew sheets, Palm crosses or Holy Week orders of service to those parishioners who may be housebound or self-isolating. The advice from the national C of E is that door-to-door deliveries do carry a risk of transmitting the virus, as the deliverer may well be touching garden gates, letterboxes and of course the items they are delivering.
The scientific evidence suggests that the virus can remain on cardboard for 24 hours, meaning that letters, leaflets and envelopes will carry a similar risk. Wearing gloves may protect the volunteer deliverer, but could transmit the virus from House A to House B unless they washed between each delivery. And, of course, deliveries of such items are not classed as essential travel by the government.
There is, of course, a desire for churches to keep in touch with those who are housebound or self-isolating who do not have access to digital technology.
Our advice is that pastoral support can be carried out by phone calls. If items do need to be delivered, they can be sent by the Royal Mail, as postal workers have been given training in how to deliver items more safely. It also cuts down on the number of visits to each household. This advice echoes the advice of the national C of E, which you can read under the FAQs here.
Resources to help you pray and worship at home
As you are confined to your home, you may want to engage with some of the spiritual resources that are available online, to help adults, young people and children in your household or your congregation to continue to pray and worship. You can find out more on our Ideas and Inspiration page.
The national Church of England has also put together some liturgy and prayers that can be used at home, which you can find here.
Prayer resources for children
During the Coronavirus lockdown, this page will be the location of “Faith at Home” resources. These are designed to use with children and adults together.
During the Covid-19 outbreak, our funerals ministry is likely to change, especially while our church buildings remain closed. Sadly, funerals are only permitted at the moment in crematoria and at gravesides, and with only a few close family members attending, to minimise the risk of infection.
The national Church of England has put together some resources to help those who are mourning the loss of loved ones, but are sadly unable to be present at the funeral. There is a simple reflection that can be downloaded and used by family members or friends, or can be emailed to them in advance by the minister leading the funeral.
You can find more resources here, including simple orders of service for funerals and the chance to light a virtual candle in memory of someone you love who has died.
See also: Guidance for Funeral Directors