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 available 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 are currently changing 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

19 January

Advice for Lent, Holy Week & Easter

There's now advice for services in Lent, Holy Week & Easter on the Church of England website. This should be read alongside the Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship and Individual Prayer as well as local Public Health advice (see 14 January below).

15 January

Bishops' sermons & community testing

As a result of the enthusiasm for the Bishops' sermons for January, we have extended the schedule through til the end of Lent - find the listing on the Diocesan sermons 2021 page.

Staffordshire County Council is encouraging people who live in hotspot areas to get tested, even if they've no symptoms, at community testing sites. Find out if you live in a hotspot area, and how to get a test, here.

14 January

Risk assessments & public health advice

The Church of England website now has updated risk assessment templates for opening church buildings and for outdoor worship.

The Government acknowledges that places of worship play an important role in providing spiritual leadership for many individuals, and in bringing communities and generations together. However, their communal nature also makes them places that are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the virus. Please discuss these factors with your governing body, whether the PCC or chapter, when coming to a decision about opening. Remember that this is your collective choice whether to open: while our churches are permitted by government to open, they are not obliged to do so.

Meanwhile, here's the current Public Health advice for places of worship in Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Staffordshire, Shropshire and Birmingham.

12 January

Church of England guidance updated

Updated documents on the national CofE website:

11 January

Government guidance updated

The Government's Guidance for Places of Worship has been updated today including a helpful summary about what is and isn't allowed. It should be read alongside the recently updated Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose facilities.

The section on singing and musical instruments says:

  • "Where singing or chanting is essential to an act of worship, this should be limited to one person wherever possible. Exceptionally, where it is essential to the service, up to three individuals should be permitted to do so. Strict social distancing should be observed and the use of Plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect worshippers, and each other."
  • Communal (congregational) singing should not take place. This applies even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used, indoors and outdoors.
  • "...playing of instruments that are blown into should also be avoided in communal worship and and in rehearsals"       

This guidance applies both to professional and amateur choirs where a congregation is present. Under the Performing Arts guidance professional groups may continue to rehearse and train, and perform for broadcast or recording purposes if a congregation is not present. In such cases the numbers or people involved should be kept as small as possible to minimise risks and participants should follow social distancing guidance.

Any churches who receive messages locally from Public Health (eg here) are asked to forward them to Archdeacon Sue Weller to help the diocese monitor local guidance.

Also, please note that the latest Church of England guidance on what is permitted during lockdown says homegroups or other meetings should not take place in private homes including parsonages and other clergy houses/vicarages.

9 January

Cathedral closed for worship

Lichfield Cathedral's website says: "It is with much sadness that the Cathedral has taken the difficult decision to close for in person worship. We realise this will be disappointing to all of our worshippers. However, we have grown increasingly concerned regarding the infection rates across the country and we wish to support the stay at home message which is so critical to controlling the virus and protecting the NHS. All of our services will be live streamed and we would very much welcome you to join us virtually."

The Director of Public Health in Wolverhampton has also advised churches in that area not to gather publicly for worship through this letter.

8 January

Churches as vaccination centres & other updates

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.

The Church of England guidance on What Is Permitted During Lockdown? has been further updated and should be used alongside this risk assessment for opening church buildings. There is also new/updated FAQs on 'Can we host a children's group?'.  

7 January

Personal risk - and streaming

Clergy, lay ministers and other church workers and volunteers are reminded to familiarise themselves with this personal risk factors document from the Church of England when considering whether or not they should carry out their normal roles at this time of heightened risk

Following a couple of local enquiries, the national Church has also confirmed that people can still enter church buildings to stream or record services if they wish even though this wasn't specifically mentioned in the Government guidance. Resources to help churches go online are available on our website and from the national Church.

6 January

Updated information

Most of the Coronavirus information on the Church of England website has been streamlined and updated this afternoon. Updated documents include What Is Permitted During Lockdown? and Guidance On Suspending Publc Worship. There are also updated or new FAQs on several topics.

The Government guidance on weddings and funerals says funerals can be attended by up to 30 people. If churches decide to close their buildings for public worship, they are encouraged to liaise with funeral directors locally about options for services at the graveside or crematorium.

The wedding guidance says: "Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included. These should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery."

5 January

New national lockdown - message from Bishop Michael

The following message has been sent to all clergy, licensed lay ministers and churchwardens today:

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement last night of further restrictions across England from midnight,  I know that you will be considering carefully and prayerfully whether to keep your churches open for public worship and/or private prayer. While we await updated detailed guidance from the Government and the Church of England, to help you in your discernment, I am now writing to repeat, update and amplify the message which Bishop Clive, Bishop Sarah and I sent to you last Thursday, as follows:

Across the diocese, public worship remains permitted in our churches, subject to the maintenance of COVID-safety regulations such as use of face coverings, maintenance of social distancing, registration of worshippers for test-and-trace, and careful cleaning of church buildings, and hand sanitising. Churches are also able to open for private prayer, provided these measures are put in place. Those that plan to remain open will have to revisit their risk assessment and update it if necessary, taking into account whether they have sufficient ability to clean their building as required and provide adequate stewarding.

Some of our churches will wish to maintain regular public worship under these challenging conditions, and we will be supportive of those of you who continue to welcome worshippers, while recognising that some may feel unable to come now. If you decide to keep churches open:

  • Please update your risk assessment as above.
  • Please remind worshippers to arrive quietly, without unnecessary conversation, and to disperse quickly after services, without remaining to mingle with one another.

We fully understand that some of you will now feel that in-person public worship should not be offered in your churches over the coming weeks. To match the expiry date for Government restrictions, we are now extending to at least 31st March 2021 the period during which  we are giving, without need of further legal process, a dispensation from canonical requirements for worship in any benefice.

If you decide to suspend in-person public worship during this period, you should ensure that:

  • There is appropriate prior consultation within the benefice, including with the PCC.
  • Where possible and appropriate, provision for online worship is made within the benefice.
  • Where it is not feasible for a benefice to organise its own online worship, people are advised of possibilities elsewhere (including the Eucharist from our Cathedral, every Sunday at 10.30am).
  • Clear information about changes to services is made publicly available in advance, on websites, church doors / noticeboards, and through other means as needed.

The new regulations impose further restrictions on weddings and funerals. We encourage you to check the Church of England website for further updated guidance as it becomes available. This will also be shared on our diocesan website.

If you have any practical questions, please contact your archdeacon in the first place.

We also remind you that for each of the Sundays in January we are recording a sermon, on video and with printed text, to be an additional resource for you to deploy in worship should you wish to do so. These are being made available here.

Thank you for all that you are doing to sustain the life and worship of our churches, to work with others in caring for those most in need, to pray for our schools, hospitals and communities, and to point people towards the signs of hope which God’s life and light give us in these difficult times. Please remember your bishops in your prayers, as we do you.

Yours in Christ,

+Michael

23 December

The following is guidance/advice is in addition to that mentioned below with regard to Tier 4. We are posting this now, so it is easily available, should there be need to refer to it in due course.

Details of the law for Tier 4

As a reminder, continue to check the permitted activities under the three-tier system, which now includes Tier 4, for any updates.

Thank you for all your hard work, patience, and endurance through 2020.

May God fill all our worship and ministry, in person and online, with the everlasting joy and light of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. O Come O Come Immanuel, the Light of the World.

22 December at 16:55

Read updated Government guidance: COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship

Updated Church of England FAQs:

In the Singing, Carol Services & key Christmas considerations section:

  • Can carol singing or carol services take place this Christmas? 
  • What is permitted in my tier? 
  • Who can attend church as part of a Christmas bubble (25 December)

In the Life Events section:

  • Can weddings and funerals go ahead? 

18 December

Updated guidance and carol singing outside

A strengthening of Government guidance on performances and tourism in tier 3 areas means the following guidance documents have been updated on the national CofE website:

Regarding outdoor carol singing outside, it's been clarified that it’s not mandatory to wear a face covering outside when singing but churches may choose to do so where they feel there is a risk that 2m will not be observed by households or bubbles.

Hospitality guidance applies indoors and outdoors - see the Government's hospitality guidance for more information. Take away drinks are not to be consumed on the premises in tiers 2 and 3 or any adjacent seating. There are also restrictions on alcohol (eg mulled wine) being served. It's best that those taking part bring their own non-alcoholic drinks if desired.

Read a comment from the Bishop of London in response to the Prime Minister's statement about Christmas arrangements.

8 December

Vaccination centres and other guidance

Following the publication of the Government's guidance for Places of Worship, the following updates have been made on the Church of England's website:

New Documents:

Updated Documents:

3 December

Updated Christmas guidance for churches

The Church of England's website features a range of new guidance documents and updated Q&As about carol singing, church attendance for Christmas bubbles, Holy Communion, weddings and funerals and other subjects.
 
 
 
The main changes from the previous Tier Regulations are concerned with outdoor carol singing, and ‘Christmas linked households’ during the period 23 to 27 December. It has also been clarified that children under 5 do not count towards the 15-person maximum at support groups/mother and toddler groups

Diocesan offices

Due to the ongoing resctrictions, diocesan central staff are continuing to work from home. Their contact details are on our website. Our diocesan offices at St Mary's House and Three Spires House are closed to the public. Post is being collected but will take longer to reach staff than normal. Thanks for your patience!

1 December

New Government places of worship guidance

The Government has published its Places of Worship guidance including rules applicable from tomorrow, 2 December. The national Church of England is reviewing its advice in light of this and will update its website as soon as possible.

30 November

Resumption of public worship

Bishop Michael today wrote to all clergy and lay ministers about the resumption of public worship on Wednesday, 2 December.
 
Churches who wish to apply for dispensations from public worship as outlined in the letter are encouraged to use the suggested template from the Diocesan Registry below. This is not necessary for individual churches who decide not to reopen if others in their benefice (or plurality) are reopening.

Dear Bishop

I am writing to confirm that the Parochial Church Council [s] of the Parish [es] of [xxx] [and xxx] in the Benefice of [xxx] has [have] met [digitally as the case may be] and has [have] passed a resolution reflecting its [their]  discussions and consideration of the current circumstances relating to the Coronavirus issues facing the country at the present time with particular reference to the ministry of the Church of England within the Parish [es] and the Church [es] of [xxx]  [and xxx].

The resolution for each PCC was “to request the Bishop to exercise his/her powers under Canon B14 to dispense with the obligations to say, sing or celebrate services under Canon B11 and B14 within the Church [es] of [xxx] until [date]”. [As minister, I concur with this request]

There is no intention that the Church [es] of [xxx] should cease to be used altogether for public worship and there is a full intention that services should be resumed as soon as is appropriate.

The factors which [I]/[the PCC] took into consideration included the following:

12 October

Local outbreak advice

There are new FAQs on the national Church of England website about NHS Test & Trace and the first steps to take if there is a local outbreak linked to your church, including a helpful action card to download from Public Health England which outlines key steps for places of worship to help them quickly identify and contain any potential COVID-19 outbreak. The CofE advice strongly recommends the NHS Test & Trace App, and therefore QR code, for church buildings as well as church halls.

If your church houses a cafe, is open to tourists or casual visitors, is open to the public for any purpose not connected to worship, or is running a community centre or hall, you are required by law to display an NHS Test & Trace QR code poster from today. Please read this guidance closely for exemptions and other details.

9 October

Archdeacons' Visitations

From Bishop Michael:

Due to the ongoing restrictions due to COVID-19, I have taken the decision to ‘inhibit’ the Archdeacons Visitations during which newly elected churchwardens are admitted to their office. This is in accordance with the procedure mentioned in Canon C22(5) and following Canon E1.2(a).

Those who have been elected as churchwarden should present themselves for admission to their incumbent or priest-in-charge; or, where these are not available, to their Rural Dean or Assistant Rural Dean, showing them a valid DBS certificate. This can take place before 31st October 2020 if an annual meeting of parishioners has already taken place, and no later than 31st January 2021.

I ask therefore that churchwardens be admitted locally, after those newly elected have confirmed that they have a valid DBS certificate. If needed churchwardens can be admitted to their role online.

The relevant documents are available on the Archdeacons' Visitations page.

2 October

Latest guidance updates

There are new guidance documents on the Church of England website on outoor worship & churchyards, mission & ministry with children & young people and church heating. There is also guidance for Fresh Expressions and updated parish continuity plan guidelines.

Please get in touch with diocesan Parish Evangelism Enabler (0-12s) Laura Edwards if you need any support or advice about youth or children's work.

3 September

Banners and posters

Posters and signs to put up around church buildings regarding physical distancing, face masks, giving online and other matters are now available to download free of charge on the Church of England website.

26 August

Guidance on meetings of parishioners to choose churchwardens and APCMs, including options for mixed physical/virtual or fully virtual meetings

If you are unable to hold wholly physical annual church meetings this year, please find

This follows the instrument signed in March to enable Annual Church Meetings to take place up to and including 31 October, due to COVID-19. Please contact your archdeacon if you have an questions.

 

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

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 out 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 for Learning

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

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.


Page last updated: 19th January 2021 3:11 PM