Yesterday, 19 March, the Archbishops issued further guidance to clarify the position of the Church of England on “public worship”, which became necessary as some clergy had been confused as dioceses differed over the suspension of services.
The Church’s FAQ Should we still hold services and events? defines “public worship” as “Church services which the public are invited to attend and take part in, and this is clarified in the Archbishops’ letter. In brief:
- Daily Prayer: “Wherever possible clergy and authorised lay ministers should continue to sustain a daily pattern of prayer” – but “Only those who have been specifically invited by the Incumbent should take part, and … all the protocols about touch and physical distancing must be strictly observed”.
- Live Streaming is commended.
- The Eucharist: “Some parishes will continue with a daily Eucharist. Again, the protocols of refraining from touch, distancing ourselves from each other, sharing the peace differently, and only receiving Holy Communion in one kind remain. The Eucharist is, sadly, no longer a public act of worship.”
- The occasional offices: “Baptisms, weddings and funerals are having to be conducted very differently. Please consult the advice on the Church of England website about what to do. This advice is being updated every day.”
On the issue of worship out of doors, the advice reads:
“Finally, some people have asked whether the suspension of public worship in our church buildings also includes acts of worship organised outside. It does. In order to slow the progress of the coronavirus and to enable our health service to deal with the massively increased demand it is facing, we all need to take responsibility for keeping to the letter as well as the spirit of our guidelines.” [our emphasis].
Although the FAQ “What does [the general guidance] mean for collective worship in schools” said:
“The guidance from the Archbishops applies to churches, not schools. Schools should follow guidance from the Government on how they should operate, including any guidance on assemblies or collective worship within school. Visits to churches for worship services in church should not take place, as these would count as public worship, which C of E churches will not now be providing”,
this potential lacuna is now avoided with the closure of schools from 20 March.