Advice for parishes during the coronavirus pandemic
The news regarding COVID-19 is constantly evolving. The main point of contact for information from the Church of England is on their dedicated website page here.
Our first priority is to care for those most vulnerable in this crisis, and we continue to pray for all those people caught up in the coronavirus epidemic, for those who are sick, for those who care for them, and for those responsible for planning for our care.
Message from Bishop Martin
Tuesday 5 May 2020
On Tuesday 5 May the House of Bishops agreed that, since the numbers of Covid 19 infections are showing signs of declining, we could now move towards clergy and lay ministers being able to access a church building to pray, celebrate the Eucharist and possibly record or livestream an act of worship. We have agreed to make this possible immediately, under careful guidance. The purpose of the guidance is to keep people safe, since we know the virus lingers far longer than people had earlier thought, and we do not want to trigger further outbreaks.
In accordance with the Government’s restrictions, our churches remain closed for any other purpose. Unfortunately, this includes allowing others to enter the church to pray.
I want to emphasise that no one should feel any pressure at all to go back into a church. Several clergy, readers and wardens are over 70 and so will be self-isolating. Others will not want to pray in their churches without at least some of their congregation members present. In terms of Sunday worship, many have devised wonderful ways of enabling congregations - and significant numbers of new people – to worship by zoom or online streaming, and the systems you have set up at home may well be far better than anything you could set up in the church building (where there may not be wifi etc). So I encourage congregations to do just what is best and manageable for you. And there is no rush.
The detailed guidance can be found here, and further guidance is being developed.
The House of Bishops has outlined two further stages for the weeks and months ahead. Neither of these can take place until Government guidance is changed. When the time comes, we will need to have very clear safety protocols and we are working on these now in preparation. It would be good for each of us to start thinking now about how our individual churches will operate as restrictions are gradually lifted – ensuring those who must continue to self-isolate are included and enabling those new attenders who want to continue to join online to do so.
I am so grateful for the extraordinary ways the churches of Suffolk have been at the heart of the care and compassion in our communities, being with the vulnerable, the isolated and the hungry, and supporting through care and prayer the sick and the bereaved. Worship and prayer, care and service is the church being the body of Christ for the world. I keep you in my prayers, praying for your safety, and that you know the closeness of God’s loving presence in these days and all the days ahead.
With Easter blessings,
Below we have highlighted some information specific to you and Suffolk.
During this difficult time when our church buildings are closed, we are still a church; meeting virtually for prayer services and fellowship, loving our neighbours by offering practical support to the vulnerable, and caring for our communities.
The work of our church is reliant on people’s generosity, a generosity that is a hallmark of a lived-out faith and a testament to it. Encouraging giving in a parish can feel daunting, but it need not be so. There is a new simple tool available by the Church of England digital team. This personalised giving video can set the right climate for people to review their giving and levels of generosity. There is a short and longer video which could be used on your A Church Near You page or edited into during your streamed or pre-record service. Visit www.achurchnearyou.com to find the resource.
The Parish Resources website has a ‘digital giving’ website page which may be helpful. Alongside other resources available on Facebook - Guidance on how to add a donate button to a charity Facebook page here and finally linking to online shopping fundraising opportunities such as easyfundraising® which is the UK’s biggest charity shopping fundraising site.
New Parish Giving Scheme Telephone Service
The PGS has launched a new telephone service for parishes. May it be of real benefit for all who use it in these difficult times. It is designed to enable prospective donors to set up a regular Direct Debit gift over the phone, donors can telephone: 0333 002 1271, lines are open Monday to Friday, between 9 – 5pm.
The “Parish Giving Scheme” is a multi-diocesan approach to serving parishes with a professional donation management and Gift Aid service which combats the challenge of static giving by allowing donors to increase their giving in line with inflation. For mkore information about the scheme please visit our website.
Home, But Not Alone - Volunteering
A new Suffolk-focused community service has been set up to support people who most need help during the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Home, But Not Alone’ has been launched to help connect people who want to volunteer in their communities. This is in addition to the NHS GoodSAM scheme, which has already seen remarkable numbers of people come forward. As the number of offers and requests for help grows, these will be matched locally so that the right help can be provided where it’s most needed. This support could include delivering groceries, medication or essential household goods, in line with Government social distancing guidelines.
The diocese is a partner organisation alongside town and parish councils and other community groups. We are in the process of collating the information provided by parishes about the support already available through our Church and Lightwave groups as part of populating the system alongside others. Currently, there is no need to register if you are already serving as part of a church-led provision, but if you are not and would like to volunteer, we would encourage you to register by downloading the “Tribe – Volunteer” app. Please also note the ‘Home, But Not Alone’ telephone number - 0800 876 6926 - which can be given to those who are in need of additional support.
From the responses we received we know that we are involved in providing support in at least 80 locations across Suffolk. In many places we are working in partnership with other local groups, especially parish councils and local charities, to provide support in the community (shopping, picking up medication, practical jobs). Many are also active in providing telephone or online support to share information and advice and to counter isolation, and in supporting or providing foodbanks or food parcels.
For further information about this initiative please read these notes.
If your church/cathedral is taking responsibility for organising a volunteering service (rather than people helping neighbours or family as private citizens), then you must follow usual safeguarding policies, procedures and practice guidance. This page on the Church of England website includes a various links to COVID-19 Safeguarding guidance and factsheets.
Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) renewals must still take place when required. The DBS has provided updated information regarding identity checks in light of COVID-19 available here.
Remember to consider government guidance regarding social distancing, and guidance regarding shielding for those who are extremely vulnerable. Anyone who has been particularly advised by the government to stay at home should be encouraged to do so.
Scamming Please note that the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned of strangers and cold callers trying to exploit the elderly and vulnerable while we all try to meet the challenge of COVID-19. We must be alert, support our communities and ensure our outreach and ministry continues to be compassionate and safe.
Basic Safeguarding (C0) and Foundation (C1) courses are still available to complete on-line. There has been a technical problem with the Foundation course but the National Safeguarding Team is aware and this is being addressed.
Leadership training (C2&C3) has been postponed. The National Church is looking into how this can be delivered using different methods. It is recognised that there are people who are required to complete Safeguarding Leadership training in order to continue with some of their duties within the Church. The National Safeguarding Team has taken legal advice on this matter. No Safeguarding Leadership training is currently available due the extreme circumstances in which we find ourselves. This is a cogent reason for people to continue to work without the training. However, as soon as circumstances change, they will be expected to attend a training event.
Suffolk Coronavirus Community Fund
Grants of up to £5,000 are available to support community organisations with emergency funding to deal with emerging issues in the community as a result of the continuing threat of coronavirus. This is a rapidly developing situation, and as a result, the focus of the fund will continue to evolve in line with the support required.
Full details of the fund and criteria including how to apply are listed here.
Keeping our church buildings safe
Our churches are currently closed however it is important that we keep our buildings safe. Please read this document on caring for church buildings during this difficult time.
It suggests that a designated person visits the church once a week and the diocese of Worcester has produced this handy checklist.
The criminal fraternity may not heed the government’s advice and stay at home. We have had one instance of a break-in since the lock-down started. The Suffolk police have recently re-issued their guidance for churches and this can be found here. It’s not lock-down specific but it’s a timely reminder of good practice for when this is over.
Don't forget that the new faculty rules took effect from 1 April. An evolution rather than a revolution the good news is that more work can be done under List B than before and there is an increase in the number of items that don’t need any permission at all (List A). The new Lists are available here.
You are encouraged to use the online faculty system (OFS) for your List B and faculty applications. Sign up at https://facultyonline.churchofengland.org/home. All faculties via OFS will be charged at £200, paper-based applications will incur a fee of £250.
Finally, the Chancellor has temporarily stopped the reservation of grave spaces as from 1 April.
Mental Health resources
If you or someone you know is feeling anxious or overwhelmed the resources below are designed to help and you may wish to share them with people via email or on social media:
Children's five tips of fun provided by Hilary Wordsworth-Sewell, Diocesan Children's and Families’ Enabler.
The Church of England Life Events team have set up a special page on the Church Support Hub www.churchsupporthub.org/coronavirus where you can find advice and guidance to help you respond. Specifically:
- Advice on reaching out to disappointed parents and Godparents of children whose baptisms have had to be postponed
- Advice on supporting couples who are planning for weddings in the weeks and months ahead
- Ways that we can offer pastoral support, warmth and closeness to people who will be unable to attend funerals (and may have been unable to say final goodbyes to people who are dying)
- A link to Light A Candle – a way for people to direct their thoughts towards friends and loved ones at sad times, even if they aren’t able to be there in person.
Please check back regularly because they will add new content as it becomes available.
In response to COVID-19, APCMs not yet held should be suspended during the current situation, please follow the advice below:
1. The time for holding meetings of parishioners to choose churchwardens is extended to 31 October 2020.
2. The time for the admission of churchwardens is extended to 31 January 2021.
3. Existing 2019 churchwardens continue in office until 31 January 2021, unless re-admitted earlier or a successor is admitted earlier.
4. The period for holding APCMs is extended to 31 October 2020.
5. Existing 2017-20 lay members of deanery synod continue in office until 30 November 2020 even where their successors may have been elected at 2020 APCMs.
6. Deanery synod secretaries must provide the Diocesan office with names, addresses and emails of clergy and lay members (as per 5. above) asap and no later than 1 July 2020.
7. Unless the APCM has already been held, PCC members for 2019 will continue in office until the postponed 2020 APCM.