A letter to the Diocese from Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert (17.3.20)

Published: Friday March 20, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Archbishops have released a letter issuing new guidance for our worshipping communities in light of the most recent Coronavirus measures. The full letter and guidance can be read here

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling for Church of England worshipping communities to put public worship on hold and become a “different sort of church” in the coming months to face the challenge of coronavirus.

Our desire is that where possible, and in line with the guidelines, our church buildings will remain open and places of prayer. We will continue to be people of hope and confidence as we live a different pattern of prayer and worship.

It is vitally important that we all follow carefully the guidelines we have been given as we care for ourselves and each other.

We recognise that people are contacting us, Church House and archdeacons with questions. While we are always here to support you, it would help us greatly if you could spend some time reading the guidelines and applying them to your question before you make contact.

Below we have set out the key guidance released today, and we have added some extra context, responding to the questions we are being asked –

Public worship will have to stop with immediate effect. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other mid-week gatherings must be put on hold. What we hope will continue will be a simple pattern of prayer, which a few people might be able to share with you, observing the physical distance recommendations. In addition, we would encourage you to think of new and creative ways of praying with and for people. Resources can be found here. We look forward to hearing your ideas and stories.

Weddings and baptisms can take place, provided you follow all the national guidance and hygiene measures. BUT they can only be attended by a small number of people, who must be able to follow physical distancing guidelines. People need to remain two metres apart from each other.

Wedding banns: Please note that you cannot currently read banns as there is no principle service. Details from the registry will be on our website by Friday.

Funerals – at present the same guidance as with weddings and baptisms applies to funerals. We expect further guidance on this over the next couple of days.

Non-essential face to face pastoral visits should be cancelled and changed to conversations over the phone/Skype etc. It is perfectly possible to pray with people over the phone.

All non-essential meetings, committees and boards should be cancelled. That includes PCCs, Chapters and Synods. We will be sharing further guidance and ideas around how good governance is continued during the coming weeks.

APCMs advice will be coming out in the next few days. We expect these to be postponed, but we will keep you updated. If yours is this weekend we suggest you postpone it.

Home groups etc – should be cancelled and could be done in a different way, using Facebook or Zoom etc.

Easter – The clergy will not gather for the Chrism Eucharist at the Cathedral. However, we are looking into the possibility of live streaming a simple act of worship. Oils will still be made available. Further information about all of this will be communicated soon.

Whilst no public services will happen this Mothering Sunday (22 March), we ask that you join in with the Archbishops’ National Day of Prayer. Please light a candle at 7pm and put it in your window, ring someone who is isolated and vulnerable, stay in touch with one another, buy an extra item and place it in your local food bank. Read more here

As we wrote in our letter on Monday morning it is crucial that amid the painful disruption of the coming weeks and months, while we rightly pay attention to the many practical issues and questions coming our way and the actions we must take, we place an even greater focus on how we care for one another and for our local communities. This is a time to share Christ’s love and hope with renewed confidence as we join in with the work of the kingdom of God.

The Psalms are full of references to being people of clean hands and clean hearts, and in this season of Lent as we inwardly examine ourselves, may those repeated 20 seconds of handwashing throughout the day be times of focusing us on our hearts as, in the words of the extended Lent preface in the Eucharistic prayer, we ‘learn to be God’s people once again.’

‘For in these forty days, you lead us into the desert of repentance
that through a pilgrimage of prayer and discipline
we may grow in grace and learn to be your people once again.
Through fasting, prayer and acts of service
you bring us back to your generous heart.
Through study of your holy word
you open our eyes to your presence in the world
and free our hands to welcome others into the radiant splendour of your love.
As we prepare to celebrate the Easter feast with joyful hearts and minds
we bless you for your mercy.’

This comes with our continued love, thanks and prayers.

Bishop Rachel and Bishop Robert

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