Reopening for public worship
Bishop Christine, In her letter to the Diocese of 1 July 2020, has encouraged all the parishes of the Diocese to use this period while we return to our church buildings for public worship as an opportunity to return safely to our cherished acts of public worship, while not losing sight of the wonderfully creative work and worship that has grown through this season.
As Bishop Christine says in her letter:
It would be a great shame if all that we have done and learnt is lost in a rush to return to where we were. It would be tragic if those who are now included become excluded.
I want to emphasise my trust in clergy, ministry teams, wardens and PCCs to make the right judgement for your circumstances. You will be the best judges of how to make the most of what we have to learnt, and how to serve and encourage your communities in worship and witness. As we move into this new phase of our lives together, I hope we will embrace a ‘both / and’ culture and not be trapped in an ‘either / or’ mindset.
The resources provided below are intended to support this culture of encouragement as we seek to live faithfully our calling to be sign and symbol of the presence of God in our communities as the Church established by law, as well as encouraging us to use this time to explore what God is calling us to do and be into the future.
The content of this page will be constantly reviewed and updated and should always be read in conjunction with the up to date advice on the Church of England website [https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches]
The most pressing concern for Church Wardens, PCCs and Incumbents (or Area Deans where a Benefice is in Vacancy) is that when we return to public worship we do so in a manner which is Covid-Safe. There is ample advice on the Church of England website and elsewhere on how this should be done. But the following information is of particular help:
- Risk Assessment Template [https://www.churchofengland.org/media/20510]
- Advice from Ecclesiastical Insurance about risk management in the current climate [https://www.ecclesiastical.com/risk-management/managing-risk-covid-19/]
Our public worship is governed by The Canons of the Church of England. Given the extraordinary time we are living through, the Church of England has produced this detailed guidance for parishes. [https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/COVID%2019%20Restarting%20Public%20worship%20some%20legal%20questions%20and%20answers.pdf]. The Essential information is:
- On the 4th July, the normal requirements of Canon Law will come back into force (that Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and a celebration of Holy Communion are held in at least one church in each benefice on Sundays and certain feast days). However, it is most important that the parish priest and /or churchwardens should not feel under pressure to open a church for public worship if it would be unsafe to do so.
- The decisions to be made about public worship will take time for parish priests and PCCs to implement and a reasonable delay is to be expected. There is no expectation that such resolutions and plans for this will be in place by this weekend.
- If, in your judgement, you need to pursue an alternative pattern of public worship at this time, there are two possible solutions:
- Where this pattern is likely to last for a few weeks (e.g. during July and August): the parish priest and PCC should make a formal resolution and there will be no need to consult Bishop Christine.
- Where the period will be longer than a few weeks (e.g. reaching into the Autumn), the parish priest and PCC should make a request to Bishop Christine for dispensation.
- Where a parish is in a vacancy, the Area Dean and churchwardens should act jointly with the PCC in dispensing with the requirement for public worship on a short term basis or making a request to Bishop Christine for dispensation on a longer term regular basis.
- Suggested PCC resolutions can be found here: [https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/COVID%2019%20Restarting%20Public%20worship%20some%20legal%20questions%20and%20answers.pdf]
Our Church life is constantly blessed by the ministry of all ages. However during this health crisis we have a particular responsibility to ensure that those who are in vulnerable categories recognise the risks we are currently living with. As a consequence, we would suggest that:
- Those in vulnerable categories who wish to volunteer are directed to a copy of the Church of England advice for those in these categories: [https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/Personal%20Risk%20Factors%20for%20Clergy%2C%20Church%20Workers%20and%20Volunteers%20v1.pdf]
- They are encouraged to discuss any concerns that they might have with those they live with as well as the incumbent or churchwarden.
- Any who could volunteer must not feel that they should volunteer if they have any concerns about the risks they would be taking on.
The worship of the Church is our highest calling and as we return to public worship many will be worried about how we might best provide public worship.
The Church of England website has:
- Very clear advice on the details of what is and is not possible in the current climate in our public worship: [https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2020-06/COVID%2019%20advice%20on%20conducting%20public%20worship%20v1.1.pdf]
In addition to this:
- The Revd Canon David Kennedy, Vicar or Corbridge and former Precentor of Durham Cathedral, has provided this checklist and guide on how to preside at the Eucharist within the current guidance. Click here.
- As we are encouraged to worship for shorter periods of time the Revd Louise Taylor-Kenyon has prepared this shortened order for Holy Communion as a resource or framework for Parishes to use. Click here.
- As we continue to explore varied patterns of worship, the Revd Canon Rob Kelsey has provided these seasonal forms of simple, lay-led worship that are used in Norham Deanery.
In addition he has produced a simple form of reflection and lectio divina which can be used as a guided reflection in a lay-led service Reflecting Together and some helpful ways of beginning to think about how to plan and run lay-led worship, Ingredients.
Developing online worship
As the Bishop says in her letter, it is also important that we continue to celebrate and develop the new patterns of worship we have encountered during this time, particularly online.
If parishes wish to develop and explore their offering of online worship:
- The Church of England website contains advice and resources for online worship [https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online]
- There is information elsewhere on the Diocesan website [https://www.newcastle.anglican.org/coronavirus/live_streaming/] to Parishes already using online worship which you might find helpful and an encouragement.
- You can also find useful practical advice on the different patterns of online worship on The Revd Bryony Taylor’s Blog:[https://bryonytaylor.com/category/coronavirus-help/?fbclid=IwAR3Cvh77_1DxK_1CJDg1IgAxagwRmLh-8EjNUpUDBS0HpoElrYVgWPkwB50].
- NEW: Turning online attendance to deeper engagement: wordonthestreets.net/Turning_online_attendance