Latest information for parishes on Coronavirus (COVID-19) on 2nd July 2020
Dear sisters and brothers,
Still 'may' not 'must'
I understand that my earlier email, and the associated guidance from the Church of England concerning the potential reopening of our buildings for public worship, has caused some anxiety and concerns among our ministers and parishes.
In particular, I understand that many of our churches that do not yet feel ready to reopen their buildings are concerned that they may be forced to do so in light of the legal guidance published by the church of England on Tuesday evening. Please be assured that this is not the case and do read the text below carefully for clarification on this.
It is important to note that the Government's lifting of restrictions on places of worship does mean that we now need to be mindful of the requirements of Canon Law in relation to our church buildings. The guidance published on Tuesday states that:
'There is no hard and fast rule as to whether a dispensation is needed on “an occasional basis” under paragraph 1(a) of Canon B 14A or on “a regular basis” under paragraph 1(b). Ministers and PCCs will need to exercise a degree of judgement. In cases of serious doubt, the archdeacon should be consulted.'
Under such circumstances, no special permission is required from myself as your Bishop for your building to remain closed. It is the view, both of myself and of our Registrar, that “occasional” and the local process for that designation could apply in cases where local teams feel that it is not possible for their buildings to reopen during July and August 2020.
In my view, it is entirely appropriate for your PCC to reach that judgement based not only on questions around building safety, but also around the inclusion of those who might not otherwise be able to attend worship in our churches. Please record this agreement as soon as reasonably practicable in a formal PCC resolution, which you can do by email, sending a copy to your archdeacon. Please ensure that the lessons we have learned during this time, and the leading of the Holy Spirit in how we proceed are key to your discussions on this matter.
Where a longer-term dispensation is needed (i.e. into September and beyond), it will be necessary for the minister and PCC to apply to me for that. Please simply email the text of your PCC’s resolution to me and consent will be usually granted. Be assured that I would be minded to grant such a request, but must consider the reasons given for the request and the circumstances at the time. I am keen that any such request take accounts both of public health issues and of matters of spirituality and mission.
For those wondering about occasional offices, Holy Communion and other key issues, further guidance has been published on the Church of England website since my last email.
I will next plan to be in touch with you on Tuesday next week (7 July) - or sooner if there is urgent information to share with you.
The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin
Bishop of Dover and Bishop in Canterbury
2 July 2020