The Bishop of London has issued the following response to the new COVID-19 restrictions. Extracts from National lockdown: Stay at Home relevant to places of worship are reproduced below. However, reference should be made to the full document, and to the legislation (when published).
Response from the Bishop of London to new Covid-19 restrictions
For immediate release
Following Monday’s statement by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, detailing new restrictions in England to control the spread of Covid-19, The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, said:
“The Prime Minister’s words tonight underline the severity of the situation for the country, as the virus continues to spread rapidly. At a time like this, the Church is here to offer comfort and spiritual support to everyone. We have a duty to care for each other, but particularly those who are vulnerable or who may be most at risk.
“The Government has chosen not to suspend public worship in England at this time and we will continue to follow the guidance and ensure that churches remain as safe as possible. The Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship makes clear that those attending a place of worship must not mingle with anyone outside their household or support bubble.
“However, some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time-being. Clergy who have concerns, and others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home.
“I would urge everyone in our churches to pray for those on the front line in our public services – the NHS and those working in social care, for schools and many others on whom we depend; and for parents and carers of children at this anxious and stressful time.
“There is hope. The vaccination programme is underway and, as Christians, we have a deeper hope in God that comforts us beyond fear itself. As we have been remembering this Christmas Season, even in the midst of our darkest fears, that hope brings light.”
Notes to editors:
Church of England advice will be updated shortly in line with Government guidance.
National lockdown: Stay at Home
Where and when you can meet in larger groups
There are still circumstances in which you are allowed to meet others from outside your household, childcare or support bubble in larger groups, but this should not be for socializing and only for permitted purposes. A full list of these circumstances will be included in the regulations, and includes:
- for a wedding or equivalent ceremony in exceptional circumstances and only for up to 6 people
- for funerals – up to a maximum of 30 people. Wakes and other linked ceremonial events can continue in a group of up to 6 people.
- to visit someone at home who is dying, or to visit someone receiving treatment in a hospital, hospice or care home, or to accompany a family member or friend to a medical appointment.
Weddings, civil partnerships, religious services and funerals
Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals are allowed with strict limits on attendance, and must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances.
Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. Linked religious, belief-based or commemorative events, such as stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 6 people in attendance. Anyone working is not counted in these limits. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.
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.
Places of worship
You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times. You should follow the national guidance on the safe use of places of worship.
Thanks for this, David. ‘If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live’ would seem to mean that one should not go to church in the next village or town — would you agree?
That would be a prudent reading of the guidance, which may or may not be part of the legislation when it is published. However, not all faith groups have “a presence in every community”, as the CofE strap line says, and for these, non local travel may be necessary.
Daniel I was discussing this very point with the dynamic duo of Frank and David. My provisional view is that it depends why you are travelling a distance for a Service. For example if the only Church of your denomination is a distance away then a journey there would probably be justifiable but if you are travelling merely because you don’t like the local Priest or the Church is too ‘happy clappy’ for your taste then that might not be justifiable. I suppose the best advice is ‘if in doubt, don’t do it’.
Thanks, Neil. It’s tricky. There may be folk that originally chose to attend the services of a non-local church for precisely the reason you give, but are now important parts of that non-local church, e.g. lay readers or even church wardens.