Coronavirus Info

"Thank you for the hope you are bringing in these challenging times. Please do read through the most recent guidance. We are in a rapidly changing situation and it is particularly important that we are ready to respond to new situations as they arise. 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

Regularly updated guidance will be on the national Church of England website as soon as it is available. Please check back regularly for the most up-to-date versions of guidance - which can change rapidly.

Other key guidance includes the Government's guidance for the safe use of places of worship and on the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities.

We are producing regular updates through the Bulletin for clergy and other church leaders, staff and volunteers in Lichfield Diocese. Click here to receive these.

Meanwhile, we have collected here updates and information on many aspects of church life - whether in parish, school, chaplaincy or fresh expressions:

Latest Updates

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

19 July

National guidance documents streamlined

Following the lifting of the majority of legal restrictions, the guidance and documentation on the Covid page of the Church of England website has been updated and streamlined.

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).

13 July

CofE response to Roadmap confirmation

This from the national CofE website:

A spokesperson for the Church of England said: “We note the Health Secretary’s statement in the House of Commons this afternoon and the Prime Minister’s press conference this evening confirming plans to move towards the next stage of the Government’s roadmap on July 19 while urging caution in response to rising cases of Covid-19 propelled by the Delta variant.

“The prospect of the lifting of legal restrictions will be both a relief and a cause of anxiety and we are aware that there is likely still to be significant guidance in place. 

“We have already been considering our current guidance to churches and are awaiting updated Government guidance for places of worship. 

“We will also be seeking further clarification through the Government’s Places of Worship Taskforce, which meets later this week, on a range of areas affecting public worship and places of worship.”

8 July

Update on children's & youth activities

Following the PM’s announcement on Monday, out-of-school settings guidance has been updated to reflect Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown. This from the Government:

The updated guidance is available at the links below. You’ll notice that there are two versions of the guidance on each page. One of the guidance documents is the current Step 3 guidance, which you should follow whilst we are still in Step 3. And then the other is the new Step 4 guidance which you should follow when Step 4 commences (due to be 19 July) entitled COVID-19: Actions for out-of-school settings (applies from Step 4)”.

Main Updates to the Out-of-school Settings Guidance from Step 4

  • We will no longer advise that children are kept in consistent groups (“bubbles”). Groups can still be of any size.
  • Residential visits may take place in groups of any number at Step 4. However, we are still advising that out-of-school settings do not go on any international visits until the beginning of the new school term in autumn.
  • From 16 August, children under the age of 18 years old will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case.  Instead, children will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace, informed they have been in close contact with a positive case and advised to take a PCR test.
  • From Step 4, face coverings will no longer be recommended to be worn in either classrooms or communal areas. They will also no longer be required to be worn in community premises (e.g. village halls, community centres, etc) or on public transport.
  • We will no longer advise that you limit the attendance of parents and carers during sessions.
  • Parents will no longer need to limit the number of settings their child attends

6 July

Bishop of London response & updated risk assessment template

The Church of England website has published a statement from the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the CofE's Covid Recovery Group:

She said: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s presentation of the latest scientific data which underpins their decision in principle to lift most restrictions from July 19. 

“The vaccination programme has been an answer to prayer but, while it has transformed the outlook of the pandemic, it has not eliminated all risk. So it is right, as the Prime Minister has said, that we all must exercise personal responsibility and carefully manage the risks from Covid-19.

“As Christians, called to love our neighbour as ourselves, we must also exercise collective responsibility and continue to take appropriate precautions to protect others. Over the past 18 months we have mourned the tens of thousands who have died from Covid-19. “We have also all made sacrifices and seen previously unimaginable changes to our way of life as we sought to protect one another and especially those who are most vulnerable.

“In churches that has meant unprecedented restrictions on the way we practise our faith itself, affecting our ability to meet together, to sing together and to celebrate the sacraments together, all of which are at the heart of our worship. We have also seen particular restrictions on the way we marked major events in our lives through baptisms, weddings and funerals; sadly many were denied the basic comforts of sharing moments of joy and pain with others.

“I’ve been inspired by the way churches have risen to the challenge, finding new ways of gathering to worship God, reach out and serve their neighbours in these difficult times. I have been deeply moved by the extraordinary efforts of those working on the front line in our NHS and social care.  

“And I would also like to highlight the sacrifices, often overlooked, made by children and young people to protect us all for so long during such a formative time in their lives. I am also mindful of those who lives have been radically changed by the effects of long covid. 

“We will await the new Government advice for places of worship and adapt our guidance to churches accordingly.”

The Church of England's updated risk assessment template for opening church buildings is here.

2 July

Conducting public worship guidance updated

The Church of England website now features updated guidance on conducting public worship, specifically regarding refreshments in church.

24 June

PCC Meetings

As new PCCs meet following APCMs, please follow the guidance given in the Church Representation Rules 2020, for when you are not all able to meet in person, to ensure full participation and best practice of decision making in writing. There is also a new Q&A on the Church of England website about holding PCC meetings:

18 June

Updated CofE Guidance

The Church of England website has updated its guidance documents on weddings, funerals and conducting public worship following the Government concessions to numerical limits for weddings and commemorative events from Monday 12 June.

15 June

Delay in lifting Covid-19 restrictions

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on coronavirus restrictions, the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, said:

“The confirmation tonight of a delay in the next stage of lifting Covid-19 restrictions will be a blow to many people but I understand why this decision has been taken.

“I am hugely thankful for the success and speed of the vaccination programme which has undoubtedly saved many lives - but we do have to take the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant very seriously and do all we can to protect each other as Christians called to love our neighbour.

“I know from those on the front line that the pressures on the NHS are extreme and understand that a delay of a few more weeks in lifting restrictions could make a big difference in helping us all to get ahead in the ‘race’ against this virus which has caused so much death and misery.

“Thankfully church buildings remain open for public worship and prayer. While we look forward to restrictions on worship being lifted in the near future, I will continue to press for ongoing appraisal of choral and congregational singing.

“We will also update our guidance on public worship where necessary in light of today’s announcement and I understand that the Business Committee of the General Synod will be looking at options for the planned July meeting of Synod in the next few days.

“The Prime Minister’s comments about lifting the limit of 30 people attending weddings will be a relief to many. We will await the detail from the Government about what it means in practice and will update our guidance to churches accordingly.

“Most of all, however, we do have hope. This pandemic has been a trial for us all but we put our trust in God and have hope that there are better times to come.”

Updated Government guidance on weddings says: "From 21 June, there will no longer be a maximum number cap for attendees set out in law. Instead, the number of attendees at weddings, civil partnerships and receptions will be determined by how many people the venue or space can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. This will be based on the COVID-19 risk assessment of the venue or outdoor space, and the measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19."

Check back on the Church of England website for any updates on this when available.

18 May

Updated CofE guidance

Now that we're in Step 3, the Church of England website has been updated with the following guidance documents:

  • Weddings
  • Baptisms
  • Funerals – attendance at a funeral is now based on the capacity of the venue. The guidance for a burial immediately following a funeral is that as a continuation of the service, those attending inside the church can attend the burial in the churchyard or municipal cemetery. The limit for the burial of ashes is now 30.
  • Individual private prayer
  • Permitted Activities under national 'step' regulations - Children/youth groups including on a Sunday – we have been advised that taking the various pieces of guidance together, if an activity is organised for young people/children (and where they are the main participants) then the covid safe limit of the building/room applies according to the out of school settings guidance. Where there is a mixed group such as a parent and toddler group then the limit for adults and children over 5 years old is 30 (subject to capacity; with helpers and those under 5 not included in the total). Provision of youth services added into guidance on 20 May (see page 4).
  • Conducting public worship - Hospitality – See Point 24 Food and drink: From 17 May, hospitality spaces within a place of worship, such as cafes, are permitted to open both inside. People may also provide their own food and drink at a place of worship but should ensure actions are taken to reduce the risk of transmission. As long as a hospitality space or caterer does not serve alcohol, people can order and collect food and drink from a counter, but they should consume food and drink while seated. If a hospitality space or caterer does serve alcohol, table service is required by law.

It has also updated the answer to its FAQ 'Is singing permitted?' – Also see Point 18 in 'Conducting public worship' .The guidance has been updated and is slightly more restricted than in Step 2, with a limit of 6 amateur singers, and where possible during worship the singers should be at the front of the church while the rest of the congregation remain seated.

17 May

Updated Government guidance

As Step 3 comes into effect today, the Government has published its updated Places of Worship guidance.

14 May

Updated funeral guidance

The Government has updated its funeral guidance ahead of the introduction of Step 3 on 17 May. This includes guidance that commemorative events, including the burial and scattering of ashes, will see an increase in the maximum number of people in attendance to 30.

See the update below (11 May) regarding funeral attendance itself.

11 May

Changes from 17 May

From 17 May, the latest Government guidance says:

Funeral attendance will no longer be limited to 30 people, but will be determined by how many people the COVID-secure venue can safely accommodate with social distancing. Limits at weddings, wakes and other commemorative events will be increased to 30 people. Other significant life events, such as bar/bat mitzvahs and christenings, will also be able to take place with 30 people.

This confirms the national Church of England guidance in the Can Funerals Go Ahead? Q&A in Life Events (although the detailed CofE funeral guidance is still to be updated).

The Government guidance also says:

People will be able to attend indoor and outdoor events... Attendance at these events will be capped according to venue type, and attendees should follow the COVID-secure measures set out by those venues.

This confirms that APCMs can take place in person with the same social distancing as for worship (as outlined in the APCM Q&A on the CofE website under Finance & Governance). See also the APCM page on our website for more info.

4 May

Updated FAQs

The Church of England has updated its website FAQs about hosting children & youth groups, risk assessments for church buildings and guidance for clergy, church workers and volunteers deemed to be at additional risk. It has also added an FAQ about resources for supporting mental health and emotional well-being. 

16 April

APCMs

The Church of England has posted the following response to the question 'Is There Any Guidance Concerning Our APCM Meeting?' on its website:

See also the APCM page on our website

There are also updated guidance documents on the Church of England website on conducting public worship and funerals.

From 28 March

  • Indoors: - small groups of singers will be allowed to perform, or rehearse for performance, only where essential to an act of communal worship. This should be limited to as few singers as possible, with social distancing being maintained at all times. Communal singing should not take place.
  • Outdoors, in the grounds or the outside space of a place of worship: When communal worship takes place outdoors, the congregation may join in with singing, and should follow the principles set out in the performing arts guidance. This includes ensuring that congregation members follow social distancing rules. Social contact limits apply, meaning that households, support bubbles or groups of 2 must not mingle. Communal singing in other public open spaces should not take place.

From 29 March

  • indoors: guidance and rules remain the same as from 28 March
  • outdoors, in the grounds or the outside space of a place of worship: when communal worship takes place outdoors, the congregation may join in and should follow the principles set out in the performing arts guidance. New social contact limits apply.

25 March

Updated CofE guidance & Bishop Michael letter

The national Church of England website has the following updated documents:

For further information, including guidance on singing in other settings or outside of communal worship, please refer to the performing arts guidance.

17 March

Risk assessments for worship

It is required that risk assessments are completed and updated for all churches for worship both inside and outside. If you are gathering for worship for the first time between now and Easter please send a copy to your rural dean.

Having done so, or if you are already worshipping in person, there is no longer the need to send a weekly update but ensure the risk assessment is regularly updated as guidance changes, regarding what activities are permitted and numbers allowed to attend occasional offices, over the coming weeks.

If you are unable or ready to open safely and would like to request dispensation to remain closed please send a copy to your rural dean and archdeacon (as outlined below, 10 March).

10 March

Easter preparations & dispensations

Bishop Michael has written to all clergy, licensed lay ministers and churchwardens this morning about preparations for Easter, including the Chrism Service, Holy Week and Easter morning. He has explained that the general dispensation from the canonical requirements for worship will be extended until Good Friday (2 April). After that, a dispensation should be sought where a benefice does not feel able or ready safely to offer in-person worship on Sundays.

Details about the dispensation process - including the suggested template to use - are here.

Meanwhile, the Church of England website now has a helpful Four Step Plan graphic which summarises current national guidance.

8 January

Churches as vaccination centres

The Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield has granted an Additional Matters Order that allows churches and their halls to be used for vaccinations without the need for a faculty application providing the conditions in the order are met. See also the national Church of England guidance on Churches As Vaccination Centres.

Other documents:

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: 23rd July 2021 12:05 PM