Coronavirus updates and resources

UPDATE 9.7.20

We have had a few inquiries from parishes who are unable to fulfil the normal requirement of holding Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and a celebration of Holy Communion in at least one church in each benefice on all Sundays and certain feast days.

Fear not – there is provision in the guidance for such a scenario, and you do not need to ask permission of Bishop Philip. The guidance, found here, states:

  1. What if there are particular problems that mean a church is not ready for public worship?

    A. If there are particular local circumstances which mean that it is not reasonably possible to comply with the Government guidance for the safe conduct of public worship in any of the churches in the benefices from the 4th July, there are two potential solutions.

    1. Where the problem is likely to last for no more than a few weeks

    If it is likely to be only a matter of a few weeks before at least one church in a benefice may be able to hold the normally required public services then the matter can be dealt with by the minister and each of the PCCs without the need to consult the bishop. The minister and the PCC(s) should set out the arrangements in a formal a resolution. This can be done by email using the Church Representation Rules.

    It is recommended that the resolution(s) of the PCC(s) take(s) the following form:

    “The [rector] [vicar] [priest in charge] and the parochial church council of [name of parish] acting jointly authorise dispensing with the reading of Morning and Evening Prayer as required by Canon B 11 and the celebration of the Holy Communion as required by Canon B 14 on the following occasions:

    Sunday 5th July 2020

    Sunday 12th July 2020 etc.

    The reason for the dispensation is that in the light of the Government’s guidance on preventing the spread of Coronavirus, there is no church in the benefice which can be used safely for public worship on those occasions.”

    If some services can go ahead but others cannot, the resolution may be edited accordingly. For example, where Morning and Evening prayer will be possible and Holy Communion will not the reference to Morning and Evening prayer should be removed. Where Holy Communion may be possible on certain Sundays but not on others it can be edited in respect of this as well. 

There is no need to inform the bishop that you have passed this resolution, it is enough simply that you have done so.

As we are moving slowly from the generalised lockdown to a position of fewer restrictions, it seems likely that most churches unable to fulfil the normal requirement will fall into this category. The bishop’s permission is only required if the services can’t be held for an extended period of time. (A draft resolution for this situation is also included in the guidance if you follow the link).

Yesterday, new guidance (here) was issued on ordinations and consecrations, and I am sure that our Episcopal College will be considering how we will be able to move forward with ordinations of our own in the light of that. Some very good news is that our new Bishop of St Germans, Revd Hugh Nelson, will be consecrated at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday next week. I plan to publish a more detailed piece about that on the diocesan website tomorrow, and will put it on the diocesan Facebook page also.

The Recovery Group also published updated guidance on individual prayer in church buildings, here.

In one of my recent emails, I believe the link I provided to the document on Holy Communion was duff – my apologies for that! I am sure that most of you found it, as it was clearly signposted on the national church’s Covid-19 guidance page, here, but in case any of you wanted that link it is here.

I think that is all for now. Bishop Philip and Ruth will continue to host their all-age worship event on the Truro Diocese Facebook page on Sundays at 0930, and a group of us are now looking at how that provision might be sustained, and also provide links to parishes.  We obviously need to consider how we can keep the best bits of what we have learned in the past few months, without everybody trying to do twice as much as before!

UPDATE 1.7.20

Just a quick update to let you know that more guidance has been published this afternoon on:
The confirmations document is a new one, the others are updates of earlier documents in the light of Monday’s guidance from the Government.
The list above contains individual links through to each of the documents, but they can all be found on the central CofE’s Covid-19 guidance page here.
As ever, if you have parish colleagues who are on this distribution list but who do not have email, I would be grateful if you would please pass on this information.
If you have questions, please direct them to your archdeacon in the first instance.

UPDATE 30.6.20

Apologies for the delay, but as you know central colleagues have had an awful lot to work their way through in the light of the government guidance that was published in the early hours of yesterday morning. 
 
However, the Church of England has now published:
• A paper on public worship, here;

• An updated risk template, here (follow the link under the FAQ ‘How should we complete a risk  assessment ahead of re-opening our church building?);

• Updated advice on accessing church buildings, here; and

• Revised FAQs, here.

 
They are also working on additional papers on weddings, baptisms, funerals, ordinations and communion, and we will let you now when they are published. 
 
Just to reiterate from Bishop Philip that this is a ‘can, not a must’ scenario. He specifically asked me to say that, with the delay in the publication of the guidance, and with the guidance for Communion not yet published, it would be quite understandable if people considered a further postponement for a week. 
 
As ever, please pass on the information here to colleagues on this distribution list who are not on email.
 
Archdeacons Audrey and Paul will be happy to answer your queries, but I’m sure they would appreciate some time to read and digest the guidance, too!

UPDATE 26.6.20

I know that most of you are grappling with the practicalities of the Government’s announcement that we can make a return to public worship from July 4.

There certainly is a lot to think about and as I write this, the Government has yet to publish its new guidance for places of worship, and the Church of England is therefore unable to update its own advice. I’m really sorry about that and do appreciate the practical difficulties it presents. I do know that there is a small but effective team in the church that is poised to make amendments to all the drafts that have been prepared as soon as they see the new rules. So hopefully once the Government does publish its regulations, our guidance should follow in short order.

As far as the reopening of churches from July 4 is concerned, in addition to Bishop Philip’s statement which I sent earlier in the week, here is a statement from the House of Bishops, and here is one from the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who leads the church’s recovery group.

There is one major development to report today, and that is that Bishop Philip has relaxed the restriction within the diocese on those over the age of 70 conducting public ministry. Here is a letter that he has asked me to pass on to you all:

Dear brothers and sisters

I write today to notify you of a change to our diocesan policy regarding the ministry of those over the age of 70. 

Until now, all authorised ministers over the age of 70 (including PTOs and lay ministers) have been required to refrain from public ministry. This was in accordance with my duty of care for individuals and in recognition of the fact that age has been the single biggest factor in determining who is most likely to suffer the most severe effects of Covid-19. 

I have reviewed this requirement in the light of the most recent national church guidance, and with regard to government health guidance both for now and in line with the further easing of lockdown restrictions from July 4, 2020. 

The Government guidance states: “Some people, including those aged 70 and over, those with certain underlying conditions and pregnant women, are clinically vulnerable, meaning they may be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. As we continue to ease restrictions, this group should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household.”

The definition of ‘clinically vulnerable’ applies to people who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
  • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • chronic kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
  • diabetes
  • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)
  • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant women

I am with immediate effect removing the blanket restriction on people over the age of 70 exercising public ministry. However, all clergy, church workers and volunteers who are over the age of 70 or who are in the other ‘at-risk’ groups must consider their own situation and evaluate the risk to themselves. They are required to discuss their situation with their incumbent (or archdeacon if in transition), or employer, with regard to the type of work or voluntary activity they are able to perform, and demonstrate the measures they will take to show that they are adhering to all social distancing guidance and taking care to minimise contact with others outside their household. This discussion must be held before any return to ministry can take place, and a written record should be kept by both parties of what is agreed. A pro-forma to shape this conversation, called Covid Ministry Agreement, is available to download here

This does not apply to those who have been advised to ‘shield’ because they are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. People in this category should continue to refrain from any public ministry, work or voluntary work until August 1 at the earliest. 

Nobody should be pressured or expected to minister if they have any reservations, and of course all hygiene and social distancing protocols must be followed. 

I know from my correspondence that some people are raring to get back to ministry, while others feel anxious and will want to wait to see how things go.  I cannot stress powerfully enough that I will support entirely anybody who decides that it is not yet the time for them to return to their ministry.

I am grateful to you all for your forbearance. It has been a long and hard three months, and sadly we are not out of the woods yet. But there is now cause for optimism, and if we exercise an abundance of caution we may be able to avoid a widespread second spike in infections and any return to some of the more draconian lockdown measures.

I am acutely aware of how much ministry in this diocese depends on the dedication and sacrifice of those aged over 70, and am very grateful indeed for their ministry.

With my very best wishes, in Christ

+Philip

In one of my recent updates, I included a link for some posters for you to download that are being made available by the Opening The Doors initiative, details here. I am told that more resources will be available on this web page by Monday, but also that there is a webinar on Monday at 2pm being run by the Evangelism and Discipleship team which will talk more broadly about how churches can connect with and serve their communities. For details about that and to register, click here. You will see that there are also other forthcoming webinars including ones on baptism and wedding ministry after lockdown, and Coming Out of Lockdown with a New Mission Initiative. These are usually on a first come, first served basis so I would register early if you’d like to take part.

With just over a week to go until our churches are able to open more fully, I think it’s important to note that the picture will look very different from one parish to the next. I know some people are investigating booking systems for services because they will need to restrict the number in the congregation to comply with social distancing rules; others with smaller congregations have no concerns about everybody being spread out; others still are considering sticking with their webcams and Zoom services for now, while opening churches for private prayer. You must go at your own pace. Please feel assured that you will be supported in the decisions you take as to what you believe is the right thing for your circumstances and your church – there’s no precedent for this so we are all having to write the rule book as we go.

As ever, if there are people in your parish who are on this distribution list but who don’t receive email, please share this information with them. Bishop Philip’s letter about the lifting of the over-70s’ restriction will go via Royal Mail to those PTOs who don’t have email.

UPDATE 23.6.20

Bishop Philip has asked me to send the following message to you all:

Dear brothers and sisters

I am sure that many of you will have been delighted to hear that our churches can reopen for public worship from Saturday, July 4. It is of course very good news that we will be able to meet in fellowship once again, to worship – and see one another without the need for a webcam! – albeit within the continuing constraints of social distancing.

As Bishop Sarah Mullally, who chairs the church’s national recovery team, said: “The last three months have been an extraordinary time – the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years.” These months have indeed been extraordinary, and we have seen some extraordinary changes in our lives to enable us to love and serve as we should; we have also borne witness to some extraordinary acts of courage, kindness and selflessness. Sadly, we have also lost people to this terrible illness, and seen many more suffering as a result of it.

Be in no doubt, today represents a milestone. But I would also urge a degree of caution. For a start, many people will quite rightly remain worried about what the news means for them, for their health and the health of those around them. The virus may be reduced, but it is still very much present in our society. People may open their churches from July 4, and I know that my colleagues are currently working hard to help with guidance to enable parishes to understand how they may reopen safely and what measures will need to be in place. It is very important that parishes only reopen their churches when they feel comfortable that they can do so safely – nobody should feel compelled to do so from July 4, or indeed from any point before they are really ready. And if you choose not to re-open for services immediately because you cannot make those services safe yet, or because of your own personal circumstances, then you will have my support in that and I encourage you to talk this over with your archdeacon as well as colleagues locally.
 
And in a diocese like ours with many multi-parish benefices it will take time to work out what a good pattern of sustainable reopening is, and again I will support you fully in in doing so.

It is important, too, to recognise that will not be going back to pre-lockdown life. Rather we’ll be pressing on to the new future that our God opens up for us. As we do that we should be careful not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ when it comes to stopping some of the excellent virtual or telephone ministry that has been going on. The lockdown has brought about the sort of technological revolution amongst us that would otherwise have taken another decade under normal circumstances. We need to take time to discern those aspects of our lives forced upon us by lockdown that may turn out, in fact, to be unforeseen gifts and blessings which will help us forge a new future.

That weddings can also now take place will be an enormous joy and a relief to many people, although the numbers allowed to attend services will, for the time being, be restricted to 30. 

We now have several days to think, talk and pray, and decide how we will each move forward as we progress gently from lockdown. As you have no doubt come to expect, there will be plenty of detailed guidance forthcoming, and our colleagues from the communications department will be sure to alert you to this as soon as it is issued.

I am very glad to be able to write to you on a positive note, and very much look forward to seeing some of you soon, albeit from ‘one metre-plus’. Let’s walk into this new and emerging future with care, yes, but also with our hopes set high on the God who always calls us forward to follow him.

With my very best wishes, in Christ,

+Philip Truro

I would be grateful, as ever, if you could please pass on this message to those people in your parishes who are on the distribution list but who do not have email.

UPDATE 17.6.20

I hope you are well and that those who have opened their churches for private prayer have managed to do so successfully and safely.

This pandemic represents a huge learning curve for most of us and everybody must find their way at their own pace. The national Opening The Doors project is working on resources to help people. Over the next few weeks there will be more resources available. At the moment there are two posters to publicise that your church building is open for private prayer. These are free (apart from P&P) and currently available at the Church Print Hub. Both will be shortly also be available on the main Church of England website and through the ACNY Resource Hub, along with a customisable video.

The posters – one for outside the church and one to place inside, feature QR codes that take people to some simple prayers and to light a candle online directly from their phones. We know that some people will be grieving and most will have their families in mind, so these resources are designed to offer comfort when hygiene rules may prevent candles, prayer books and cards being available.

Revd Canon Sandra Millar (Head of Welcome and Life Events) and Revd Dr Stephen Hance (National Lead for Evangelism and Witness) said: “We are praying for churches everywhere as they make decisions about when and how to open the doors of church buildings for private prayer. We know that there will be a lot of planning and a mixture of emotions. May God, who is always all that we need, bless, guide and encourage you as you continue to build His kingdom during this season.”

There are, as always it seems, some changes to the guidance papers – available here – to which I hoped to draw your attention.

Firstly, there is guidance here on personal risk factors for clergy, church workers and volunteers deemed to be at additional risk from coronavirus.

There is also this paper on Holy Communion, and the particular challenges the pandemic presents us with – and how we might answer some of them!

Also, this morning, there was an updated FAQ ‘Can construction work be carried out?’ In the Fabric and building maintenance section; an updated ‘Keeping church buildings clean’ document, and a new risk assessment template for contractors and construction workers.

In a final note related to coronavirus, our colleagues in the Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham have produced a clever flow-chart that may well help you with your problem solving at this time. You can find that here.

On an unrelated matter, please note that we are having some technical problems with the Directory Live function on our website at the moment. Work is going on behind the scenes for it to be restored, but if you need any assistance accessing information at the moment, please do call the Church House team on 01872 274351.

UPDATE 13.6.20

As we anticipated yesterday, there have been some changes to the CofE guidance documents in the light of the Government’s document published yesterday.

There is an updated risk assessment document for opening church buildings.

There is a new Using Church Buildings for Prayers and Funerals document, which combines the previous Access to Church Buildings During Lockdown: Advice for Incumbents, and Access to Church Buildings During Lockdown: General Advice for Incumbents, Churchwardens and PCC Members into one single document.

There is a new FAQ regarding organists accessing church buildings for organ practice and maintenance.

You will find all of these documents on the national church’s Covid-19 page here.

If you have questions, please direct them to your respective archdeacon in the first instance.

UPDATE 12.6.20

The eagerly-waited government guidance on how we might open our churches for individual prayer has been published today. You will find the guidance here.

There are no great surprises in there, and it is largely in line with the preparatory guidance from the CofE that was issued earlier in the week.

There is no explicit call for supervision, but there are sections which may in practice require it – it really depends on the individual circumstances and local context of your church. Everybody is required to carry out a risk assessment to see how they might safely reopen their church for individual prayer. The Government directs you to the Health and Safety Executive page here for guidance on carrying these out. But the Church of England has also helpfully provided a template for churches tailored to these circumstances, which I think you will find helpful – and that can be found on the national church’s Covid-19 page here.

It is crucial that everybody reads the guidance and sees how it applies to their circumstances. For example, it says:

Queue management is important so the flow of groups in and out of the premises can be carefully controlled, reducing the risk of congestion or contact. Considerations should be made for how to manage those waiting outside a place of worship, including the introduction of socially distanced queuing systems.

For example:

  • Introduce a one-way flow in and out of the premises with appropriate floor markings or signage, with restrictions on accessing non-essential areas.
  • Multiple entry points could be opened and clear signposting or assistance could be offered to guide worshippers and avoid congestion.
  • Staggering arrival and departure times can also reduce the flow at exits and entrances as well as reduce any impacts on public transport. Venues could also consider introducing a booking system to help facilitate this.
  • Consider using screens, barriers or alternative rooms and spaces to separate worshippers.
  • Any changes to entrances, exits and queues should take into account reasonable adjustments to accommodate those who need them, such as worshippers with physical disabilities.

As you can imagine, all this could look very different in a small, rural parish church compared to a large and busy urban church or cathedral.

We also need to be realistic about the resources at our disposal to ensure we can abide by these guidelines, and do so without putting our own teams at risk. Some of our churches have very small teams made up largely of people over the age of 70 or with underlying health conditions, all of whom are at more risk of severe illness from coronavirus – and as such are urged to take extra care. Let us be sure that we look back on the reopening of our churches for private prayer as a joyful act, rather than it being a source of any regret!

Bishop Philip is adamant that nobody should feel there is any pressure to reopen churches now, and he fully recognises that it will not be the right thing or possible for everybody.

One change that I know will make some people very happy is that organists are now allowed to use church buildings for ‘practice with appropriate social distancing’.

The national church issued some preparatory guidance on reopening churches for private prayer last week. I know that the the drafting team is meeting today to revisit this in the light of the Government guidance. If there are any discrepancies, they will make changes and republish the guidance in the FAQs section here. However, I will not wait to see what this looks like before sending this email, as I know many of you are waiting to see what the Government says and how it affects you.

The conversation about this will doubtless continue on our Facebook coronavirus support group here. If you have individual queries, please direct them to your respective archdeacon in the first instance.

A reminder that Bishop Philip and Ruth Mounstephen will be webcasting an all-age service from Lis Escop on Facebook Live on Sunday at 9.30am. You can find that on the diocesan Facebook page.

If there are people in your parish who are on this distribution list but who do not have email, I would be grateful if you could pass on this information to them. I know I say this several times a week, but please be assured I know how complicated a task that can be on some days, and suspect today is one of them!

UPDATE 11.6.20

As some of you will have noticed, at the coronavirus media briefing last night the Prime Minister talked about churches being open for private prayer from ‘the weekend’.

The Government has this morning revised its guidance, and so people will legally be permitted to attend their place of worship “for the purposes of individual prayer” from June 13, (Saturday), sooner than June 15 (Monday) as originally stated.

In response, the national church this morning made this statement: “If churches are ready to open earlier than planned, they may of course do so, however many may wish to wait until June 15 or later to do so in line with their existing plans. Although the guidance allows for places of worship to reopen, as always the decision of how and when to begin the process of doing so for individual private prayer will be taken locally.”

Bishop Philip is happy that we, in the Diocese of Truro, act in line with this advice from the national church. However, he is also keen to stress that nobody should feel they need to change their plans in the light of this revision. He would also like to reiterate that nobody should feel pressured into opening their churches unless they feel able to do so safely.

We are also still awaiting guidance on whether, and if so how, the prayer will need to be ‘supervised’. We understood that a final draft of this guidance was due to go to the faith groups task force this morning, and as soon as we have any more information we will of course share it with you.  I’m really sorry for any uncertainty this may cause – please be assured we’re doing everything we can to get good, solid information for you – and will pass it on as soon as we have more.

Clearly, we are operating in a fast-changing environment, but then coming out of lockdown was always going to be more complicated and nuanced than going into it.

UPDATE 9.6.20

This is becoming a pivotal week. As you know, the Government has already announced that churches will be able to open for individual prayer from Monday.  This is very much a permissive change, rather than a prescriptive one, and Bishop Philip is keen to emphasise that ‘can does not mean must!’. You should only do this if you feel that your personal health circumstances allow – with regard for the health of those in your household –  and if you believe you can do so in accordance with social distancing guidelines.  Everything does not have to happen from Monday 15th, and everything does not have to happen at once – you can take it slowly and steadily! We are awaiting new Government guidance, particularly as to what ‘supervised private prayer’ means in practice, but the Church of England centrally has already updated its risk assessment template. That can be downloaded from the Coronavirus page of the church’s website, here. A paper of guidance on gaining permission for temporary works in churches and cathedrals to is also due to be published there this afternoon.

Our colleagues over at the benefice of Lostwithiel parishes have been very quick off the mark and have put together a fantastic video of their plans for private prayer following social distancing guidelines, filmed at St Winnow Church, which I know they are happy to share. It is available on Facebook – if you follow Paul Beynon, he posted it (and stars in it with the churchwardens), and I have also shared it to our diocesan coronavirus support group here   Thanks to them for doing this and for sharing.

I think that many of you will also be very pleased to hear of the latest development, following a meeting of the House of Bishops this morning. After the Government announcement on private prayer and in the light of our changing circumstances – including a welcome reduction in the rate of Covid-19 related deaths – the bishops have said that funeral services may now again take place inside church buildings from June 15, as long as they are carried out in accordance with Government guidance. Again, though, I cannot stress enough that there is no pressure for people to do this – it is where you want to do so and feel you can do so safely. There will be places where, for many reasons, this may not be possible. If you have any doubts, worries, or indeed questions, please do take them up with your archdeacon who will be pleased to help. There is a guidance paper – you guessed it, on the national church’s Covid-19 page here.

We also know that our colleagues in the recovery group nationally are working on a risk assessment tool to help us make good judgements about how people over the age of 70 and those with certain underlying health conditions can safely return to public ministry. I know that Bishop Philip is planning to look again at the position of people over the age of 70 – who are currently asked to refrain from public ministry in this diocese – once we have this tool. He is keen to enable people to do as much as they feel able and willing to do, as long as they can do so safely and with confidence.

It is lovely to be able to share some positive news. It feels as though we are moving in the right direction, and hopefully we will soon be able to resume some other aspects of church life. We will of course keep you posted.

UPDATE 8.6.20

If you were surprised to hear on the news yesterday that churches would be able to reopen from June 15th for private prayer, then please be assured you were not alone!

Late on Saturday afternoon we were told that there might be an announcement on Sunday, and as it happened the Government then cracked on and announced on Saturday night that places of worship across England would be permitted to open from that date for individual prayer, and in line with social distancing guidelines.

We also understood that this would be ’supervised’ prayer, and colleagues in London are seeking clarification on that from the Government, and what that might look like in different settings.

The Government’s press release here was published yesterday, and gives some more information. The government has said that guidance ‘will be available shortly’ as to how to address practical safety issues, and says: “Faith leaders should carry out a risk assessment of the place of worship and tailor this guidance as appropriate for the venue and practices being carried out. This will be in addition to any risk assessment already in place. Individual prayer within a place of worship is defined as a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act. They should be socially distanced from other individuals or households. The government is following the latest scientific and medical advice around how activities such as singing and/or playing instruments can best be managed safely. Further guidance will follow on this shortly, but for now such activity should be avoided.”

The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who is leading the church’s Covid Recovery Team also issued a response to the announcement, here.

As soon as we have any more information we will of course be in touch to pass that on.

The planning documents I referred you to last week on the national church’s Covid page here do contain a paper on preparing to open churches for private prayer, but please note that this will be subject to change in the light of the government’s guidance once we receive it. There is also a risk assessment checklist on this same page which may be useful.

I’m sorry not to be able to give you more definitive information, but we did want to be in touch with you to tell you at least what we do (and don’t) know!

UPDATE 5.6.20

I write to you today with a note of optimism. I suppose that in order not to get your hopes up, I should start by saying that as of today, nothing has changed. We do not yet know when we may be able to open our churches for prayer, services, sacraments or rites (or anything else!).

However, this email is all about looking to the future. The Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who chairs the CofE’s Recovery Group, is pressing the Government to set some dates so that we might at least begin planning for the future. She issued this statement during the week:

 “We all want to see places of worship open as soon as is safe and practical and we have been very actively planning to that end, drawing up detailed advice to help parishes prepare.
“While I welcome the Secretary of State’s declaration of intent to see them begin to reopen, at least initially for individual prayer, I would encourage ministers now to set a date so that we all know where we stand.
“Working closely with the Government’s Places of Worship Task Force, we are committed to finding a safe way of opening up our buildings as soon as possible, wherever proper physical distancing can be maintained.
“We believe it could help bring healing and strength to many who are hurting amid this traumatic time, with our churches acting in so many places at the centre of community life, which is now beginning to resume.”

With the aim of helping parishes to prepare for such a time as we are able to open our church doors and welcome one another once again, the Recovery Group has drawn up a whole raft of detailed papers and guidance. This has been published today. It is all conditional, and subject to change depending on circumstances. But I know it will be of enormous interest to you so you can start actively and tangibly planning for the brave new world(s) in which we will find ourselves as lockdown is further relaxed.

The planning papers have all been published on the CofE’s Covid-19 advice page, here. You will find:

  • New Prayer and worship FAQ section.
  • New FAQ What liturgical resources are available? and accompanying documents.
  • New FAQ Can churches open for individual and private prayer? and accompanying document.
  • New FAQ How can parishes prepare to re-open buildings? and updated risk assessment in Word format.
  • Updated FAQ Can Weddings still go ahead? and accompanying document.
  • Updated FAQ Can Funerals still go ahead? and accompanying document.
  • Updated FAQ Can Baptisms still go ahead? and accompanying document.

As I said, we cannot yet welcome people to our churches and the restrictions very much remain about only one nominated person being allowed into the church apart from in very specific circumstances (generally an emergency!). However, this to me feels like a glimpse of light if not at the end, at least some of the way along what has been a very dark tunnel.

As far as the weekend’s worship is concerned, Bishop Philip and Ruth have recorded their final formal worship video for Trinity Sunday, and we will publish that on the diocesan website at 8am on Sunday. They will stop now with these recorded services, given the wealth of material available from many of our parishes, although as I said previously they will continue with the 9.30am Sunday morning, all-age services on Facebook Live.

UPDATE 1.6.20

Firstly, Bishop Philip has asked me to include a word from him: 

“I know there’s been a lot of coverage in the press about why churches are not yet open when, for example, car showrooms have been allowed to reopen today. I can tell you that there is quite a lot of concern amongst the bishops as to what government does or does not consider ‘essential’ – I’ve even heard Magna Carta being cited! That said, there remain significant issues around hygiene and the cleaning of churches, and there have been several high-profile cases worldwide of services of worship becoming hotspots for the spread of the disease. 

 “So please be assured that issues such as these – along with other questions such as over 70s ministering – are very much ‘live’ and we’ll let you know of any changes just as soon as we can.”

On another note, the national church has issued guidance on whether nursery and early years provision can operate in churches or church buildings. That can be found in the FAQs section of their Covid-19 advice page here. They also include a link to the Government’s website for the full guidance here

Another thing I need to bring to your attention is that a scam is being operated in which somebody poses as a parish priest and appears to ask people whose email addresses appear on the parish website to do them favours – involving money – via email. This has been attempted twice in this diocese to my knowledge, and of course there may well be other cases we haven’t heard about. I wrote a story for our website giving more details here

This weekend will see the last of the recorded, more formal worship sessions recorded by Bishop Philip and Ruth. This was intended as a stop-gap measure when churches were first closed, but now so many parishes are doing such a great job with worship in so many different formats, there is not the same need. However, Philip and Ruth will continue with their Facebook Live, all-age services from Lis Escop at 9.30 on Sunday mornings for the time being – these are attracting quite sizeable audiences and we are giving some careful thought to how we might continue to offer different kinds of provision in the months and years to come.

UPDATE 28.5.20

The national church has released more guidance, which will be of use to you. I suspect that many people will be delighted to see that the guidance on the mowing of churchyard grass by volunteers has been relaxed!

There are new FAQs and guidance on:

There have also been updates to the Fabric and building maintenance section including:

All of the above are available via the Church of England website here and on the diocesan website here.

If you have any questions regarding how this relates to you and your parish, please do direct your questions to your respective archdeacon.

In case you haven’t come across it, the Parish Support team has also organised a series of webinars in June:

THURSDAY, MAY 28: Creatively communicating the financial need in your church;
THURSDAY, JUNE 4: Getting started with online and contactless giving;
THURSDAY, JUNE 11: The Parish Giving Scheme for NEW parishes;
THURSDAY, JUNE 18: Stewardship Surgery – drop in with your questions!
THURSDAY, JUNE 25: Ten top tips for Giving.

To find out more and to book onto the webinars, click here.

This Sunday, there won’t be the normal recorded video or Facebook Live with Bishop Philip and Ruth as they are on leave. However, there will be a diocese-wide, ecumenical worship, prayer and celebration led by Revd Steve Morgan and featuring lots of familiar faces from 11am live on St Martin’s Church Liskeard’s Facebook page and its Youtube channel. The service marks the end of this year’s Thy Kingdom Come.

UPDATE 21.5.20

In the light of changing Government guidance, and pending any further advice from the House of Bishops, Bishop Philip is relaxing his direction regarding public ministry (such as is currently permitted, for instance funerals) for those ministers under the age of 70.

Ministers under the age of 70 with underlying health conditions (or living with those who have such conditions) may return to ministry (subject to national restrictions) if they:

  1. Take into account the relative risks associated with the relevant health condition(s), and make their own decision about whether to return to ministry.  So e.g. those who have been asked to ‘shield’ should continue to refrain. For more information, please see https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/.
  2. Adhere to the government guidance to ‘stay alert’: by limiting contact with other people, keeping their distance, washing their hands, etc.

There will be no criticism of any ministers who conclude that they ought still to avoid public ministry.  Further details about the significance of the advice to ‘stay alert’ can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

The bishop’s requirement for all ministers over the age of 70 is that they continue to refrain from any form of public ministry (unless via remote media).

Could I please ask that any questions are directed towards your respective archdeacon.

UPDATE 20.5.20

I am sorry that I haven’t been in touch sooner. As I said, I had hoped that the guidance we were waiting for would be out towards the end of last week or on Monday. As it happens, it has gone live today.

The scope of the guidance is not quite as wide as I had hoped and possibly led you to believe, and only covers guidance for opening church buildings for works to the building and interior, and guidance for access to churches and cathedrals for construction work. I know these documents will be useful to some of you, and they can be found on the central church’s Covid information page here – under the FAQ ‘Can construction work be carried out?’. There will be more, and we will share it as soon as we have it.

There are a couple of new resources I would like to share with you. The evangelism and discipleship team in London are running a really helpful series of webinars – and they are popular too, as some of you found out when signing up to the first ones I pointed you to a few weeks ago! They cover topics such as:

  • Using technology to support funeral ministry
  • Culture after the virus, anticipating our new context
  • Leadership in the time of Covid-19
  • Opening the doors: being on mission in and beyond lockdown

They can be found here, and if you aren’t able to attend fear not, they are recorded and the recordings can be found here.

Another resource that is available to you is a short video for anybody and everybody, lay or ordained, people who attend church or who do not. It features Revd Kate Bottley and was produced by the church working with bereavement charities. You can find it here. It has a simple message to help everybody and anybody to feel that there is something they can do for people, even in the current situation.

On Sunday, there will be a recorded service of worship on the website from 8am, with subtitles, and then Bishop Philip and Ruth will be on Facebook Live again on Sunday at 0930. Advance warning, though, next week the Mounstephens are on leave and so there won’t be either service. On Sunday 31st, there will be a Cornwall-wide, ecumenical service let by Revd Steve Morgan and featuring lots of familiar faces from across the county, and we will point you in the direction of that as soon as we have the details.

UPDATE 13.5.20

While the Government’s guidance has changed, there have not really been any changes that affect churches per se. The biggest change for us was allowing one designated person to access churches as Bishop Philip set out last week. The guidance about re-entering a closed church building that I mentioned in my most recent update has been slightly amended, but mainly for tone and to add a checklist. That’s available here

Bishop Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London and chair of the group considering the church’s response to the recovery phase, has said: “We note from the Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy that churches could be open from July as part of the conditional and phased plan to begin lifting the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in our church buildings. We are examining what steps we will need to take to do so safely and are actively planning ahead in preparation. We strongly support the Government’s approach of continuing to suppress the transmission of the virus and accordingly, we recognise that at this time public worship cannot return in the interests of public health and safety.”

We have had quite a few inquiries about the possibility of having building contractors into churches, when grass cutting can begin again, etc. The good news is that more, specific guidance is pretty much awaiting sign-off now and I am told it should be with us this week. As soon as that’s available, we will pass it on to you.

A few people have also been in touch to ask about whether they can go ahead and schedule weddings for later in the summer, while other individuals have inquired about when they might be able to open their churches for funerals. The short answer is that the guidance/rules have not changed – so at present it remains that there can only be graveside funerals, while weddings are not allowed. A slightly longer answer, though, is that opening churches for things such as weddings, funerals and private prayer are under active consideration and could be reintroduced in coming weeks – or months – depending on the success of the current slight easing of lockdown – and the suppression of the ‘R’ number. The Government has established a task force for places of worship which will consider how worship can take place safely and under social distancing guidelines. So I guess we need to be patient, and remain prepared to adapt as and when there are changes to the law and to guidance.

Colleagues from the parish support team have been asked whether these updates were anywhere for your reference – and the answer is yes! If you go to the diocesan website and look at the Covid-19 section, and click on latest updates, you will find them all (on this page!):

And of course, the national church page here contains all their updates and links to their guidance.

This weekend, there will be a recorded service from Lis Escop published to the homepage of our website at 8am on Sunday. (My apologies if you went there at 8am this Sunday and found it missing – I had an accident involving the am/pm buttons on the scheduling page, and it was a little after 8am that I noticed it hadn’t gone up and fixed it!) And Bishop Philip and Ruth will be leading an all-age service on Facebook Live from 9.30am – that’s on the diocesan Facebook page.

UPDATE 7.5.20

Just a brief note today which may be useful for you before tomorrow and the weekend: the guidance on re-entering closed church buildings that I mentioned yesterday has now been published. It is available on our website here. If you have any questions on this, please direct them to your respective archdeacon.

Please note that we are promised further guidance on re-starting construction projects; allowing access for professional building contractors and advisers; and allowing access for volunteers for building maintenance, cleaning and management. We will let you know as and when that is issued.

UPDATE 6.5.20

Friday, as you know, is VE Day. Dean Roger has put together a service, which includes sections from Bishop Philip and the Lord Lieutenant, Edward Bolitho, and that will be available on our website and the cathedral’s from around 11.30am Friday.

Bishop Philip and Ruth have recorded a service for Sunday that will go live on our website at 8am, and they will be streaming live on Facebook again at 9.30am. Morning Prayer will follow the lectionary readings, but they’ll be taking a different tack at 9.30. All will be revealed on the day – but here’s some important advance information: you’re invited to join them for brunch at the end of the event … so make sure you have your supplies ready!

Following discussion and decisions made by the House of Bishops yesterday afternoon, a phased approach was agreed to the lifting of restrictions as infection levels improve, in parallel with the Government’s approach.

The bishops agreed to a phased approach:

  • Phase one:  an initial, immediate, phase allowing very limited access to church buildings for activities such as streaming of services or private prayer by clergy in their own parishes, so long as the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are taken;
  • Phase two: access for some rites and ceremonies when allowed by law, observing appropriate physical distancing and hygiene precautions
  • Phase three: Worship services with limited congregations meeting, when Government restrictions are eased to allow this

In coming to their decision, the bishops recognised that there have been some welcome signs of improvement in the current situation, including a reduction in new cases and hospital admissions – giving evidence for hope.

In line with this, Bishop Philip has asked me to pass on the following guidance for clergy and parish leaders within the Diocese of Truro.

Bishop Philip writes:

Dear brothers and sisters

I would firstly like to offer my grateful thanks to you all for the remarkable way in which you have responded to the current crisis and to the changes that we have all had to make for the common good. I have been so impressed by the dedication, creativity and imagination you have all shown at such a challenging time. Thank you!

I am pleased that we are now able to slightly ease the current restrictions as they relate to church buildings. Clearly this change is limited in scope – but it is a move in the right direction. 

Incumbents, or where there is no incumbent the rural dean, can appoint one person for each church in their benefice to enter that church. I hope this would be done in consultation with the churchwardens. 

The appointed person should be the incumbent or a licensed or authorised minister – including lay readers – a minister with PTO, a churchwarden or, where there is no churchwarden, a member of the PCC.

This appointed person is permitted to enter the church for any or all of the following:

  1. to pray the Daily Office and/or celebrate the Eucharist on behalf of the community they serve;
  2. to stream or record worship;
  3. to ring one bell to mark prayers being said or to mark events (eg VE Day, or the Thursday evening clap for key workers); and
  4. To check the fabric of the building. 

The appointed person may enter the church together with one or more member(s) of their household with whom they are living (to assist with recording, streaming, etc.). 

I would like to stress that there is absolutely no obligation for you to do this. You may feel that for the time being streaming or recording worship in your own homes would indicate a show of solidarity with your parishioners. That’s what I intent to continue to do and will not be recording from the chapel here at Lis Escop.

Before you go back into the building, consideration must be given as to what needs to be done to make our churches safe after being empty for several weeks (for example, clearing bat, mice or rat droppings, mould spores, dust, legionella disease in water systems), as well as the cleaning of door handles, disinfecting gates, etc. I understand a document covering this information will be issued by the national church and published on its website here tomorrow.

There is still a very long way to go in our fight against this virus, and we should not underestimate the size of the challenge ahead. However, we should also acknowledge and celebrate the green shoots of recovery when we see them. Above all let us press forward in resurrection hope.

Yours, in Christ,

+Philip Truro 

 As soon as the advice for clergy and church leaders on re-entering churches is available, we will also publish it on the diocesan website here.

UPDATE 3.5.20

The Church House team is committed to finding the best ways to support parishes and clergy over the coming weeks and months. Sometimes it can be difficult for colleagues to discern where resources should best be focused, so we hope you will please take part in a short survey to help us. We can’t promise to meet every need you identify, but your participation will help us to understand which areas are most in need of support. It’s possible you will feel that some questions are not relevant to your context/role, and in that case please just use the N/A option. To start the survey, please click here.

There have been a couple of important announcements from the national church this week, that I wanted to pass on to you.

The first is that the Church Of England has launched a new programme to help make faith a household habit once again.  #FaithAtHome will feature weekly video content to help families talk abut faith and pray together. Over the next three months, #FaithAtHome will explore themes including courage, patience, generosity, resilience, love and hope.  Specific sections for parents, church leaders and school leaders can be found here. At the launch Bishop Paul Butler suggested that in Jesus’ times home, school and faith community were much more integrated than in ours – but that our current experience is closer to that than maybe it’s ever been. The initiative is an attempt to reflect that and draw from it its many benefits and blessings.

Another item that has only been announced just this afternoon is that singers from St Martin-in-the-Fields are to record hymns and songs each week for use by clergy and church leaders live-streaming Sunday services. The church’s choral scholars are recording music individually in their own homes and then their contributions are being edited together! A selection of five pieces of music will be made available every Thursday through the A Church Near You Resource Hub. The music will be chosen, in collaboration with the Royal School of Church Music, to suit the church season and the theme of each Sunday’s readings. Clergy and church leaders have been live-streaming services from their homes since the start of the lockdown but have been very limited in their choice of music for copyright reasons.

The scheme will mean that Church of England churches can download music through ACNY from St Martin’s choral scholars rights-free when they hold a CCLI licence with its ’streaming’ addition.

This Sunday, there are again two options for worship from Bishop Philip and Ruth. At 8am on the diocesan website (which we will also publicise via Facebook and Twitter), the weekly service video with subtitles will be published. At 9.30am it will be time for an all-age service on Facebook Live. To join in you will need the following: a Bible, any food you can eat in slices (for example an apple, some cake, or cheese, etc), and a piece of cardboard like the one here, with with four pieces of string, ribbon or wool stuck to it (each strand about 40cm long). Why? I don’t know yet, personally, but all will be revealed on Sunday – although you might like to watch this video in advance.

UPDATE 27.4.20

I hope you are well and were able to make the most of the sunny weekend. I saw lots of social media activity yesterday as those who are connected in that way got together to worship. But yesterday was also a good day for those who are not on social media, as the Church of England launched a free national phone line to bring worship and prayer to people in their homes while church buildings remain closed.

‘Daily Hope’ offers music, prayers and reflections, as well as full worship services and is available 24 hours a day – on 0800 804 8044.

I know that some parishes and clusters have their own phone lines for people, and there is no intention that this should replace any of those. Local voices and relationships are more important than ever at a time like this, but this will undoubtedly be a boon for those who don’t have local alternatives to rely on. I know that most if not all of you will have parish teams who are telephoning isolated parishioners and neighbours, and this will hopefully add a new dimension to the help the church is able to offer them now.

I don’t know if you will recall, but some weeks ago we sent out some ‘Thoughts for ministers during the first phase of the coronavirus crisis’ by a team working on a project relating to trauma and tragedy in Christian congregations. Well, that team has now offered some further reflections one month on – and these are available here alongside the original document if you would like to read it.

Following the Government’s decision to extend lockdown for a further three weeks, the national church also updated its guidance for parishes on caring for closed church buildings. That guidance is available here.

One of the many significant effects of the lockdown is that we are not able to go to the funerals of anything but the closes of relatives, and that can make grieving even harder. There is a page on the national Church of England page here that offers some practical suggestions that you might find helpful. And Church Support Hub has a page offering resources for ministers around funerals at this time here.

UPDATE 23.4.20

We have recently published what we hope will be helpful guidance for parishes on stewardship, and the Parish Giving Scheme – which is now open to sign up both new donors and new parishes. Our colleagues from the Parish Support Team at Church House are still working hard and are available to help you with any queries, and to help you make the most of the resources available at a time when people aren’t able to come together physically at church. For more details about the Parish Giving Scheme, and also to find details of how you can access local support, please click here.

Sunday, May 3, is Vocations Sunday. We did have some plans for a physical event but of course that is now on hold for the time being.  But, as you know, that does not need to stop us! A time of sudden change, when we are forced to question many of our usual norms and assumptions, can represent an important time for growth and reflection. An incredibly creative group of individuals have put together a whole virtual Vocations Sunday programme for us, including videos, prayer resources, reflections – and even a recipe for play dough! It is all introduced by Bishop Philip. We hope you will come together with us from 2-3.30pm on Vocations Sunday, and perhaps consider your and others’ vocations.  You will find the resources here.

This Sunday Bishop Philip and Ruth will again be making two services available online. There will be a recorded service of morning prayer, with a short reflection from the bishop on the gospel reading of the day. This will be available from the homepage of the diocesan website from 8am on Sunday. The order of service will also be available on the website – some of you might like to print out before you start the video.

Then, at 9.30am they will lead a live, all-age service on the Truro Diocese Facebook page here, following up on their enjoyable and successful venture into this territory last week. I’m reliably informed that Petroc the Penguin might make another appearance – and to fully enjoy the experience you’ll need some bread and chocolate (or a suitable substitute) with you at home.

This week, there has not been a great deal of change to any guidance issued by the church nationally. The only update on its Covid-19 page has been to add an FAQ on how to help your church financially at this time. That can be found here and will hopefully complement our own parish support resources.

UPDATE 17.4.20

As promised, Bishop Philip has written a Pastoral Letter to the churches and people of the Diocese of Truro, and that is available here.

In addition, there are a couple of points that Archdeacons Audrey and Paul have asked me to bring to your attention:

Supporting the bereaved

The need for bereavement support is both enhanced and more difficult in current circumstances, as some people are unable to be with their loved ones as they die, or may be unable to attend a funeral.  As it happens, a Bereavement Support Network was established in Cornwall just before the viral outbreak.  The network has asked to be able to draw on the resources and expertise of our ministers across Cornwall.  To this end, Revd Paul Beynon (Lostwithiel benefice) and Revd Carole Holmes (Superintendent Minister for Redruth district) have both agreed to work with the network, and to pass on referrals as appropriate to local clergy and ministers.  It is possible that Paul or Carole will be in touch with parish clergy to inform you about families in your parishes who need pastoral support following bereavement.  Obviously, any support currently will need to be given by phone or video, and can be exercised by anyone from your ministry team with appropriate bereavement pastoral training.

Churchyard burials

Some parishes have expressed a concern about limited spaces within their churchyards for future burials. Also as it happens, the Chancellor of the diocese agreed to a policy for the re-use of gravespaces within our churchyards just before lockdown.  A copy of the policy can be found here on the diocesan website.  It will not be possible for a PCC to implement the policy until such time as it is possible to debate the matter properly, to consult with the wider community, and to draw up the required scale plan.  Nevertheless, you may find it helpful to know that this is will be an option in due course.  Please note that it is not possible to reuse any gravespaces in a churchyard which is closed by order in council.

Online prayer book

Archdeacon Audrey also asked me to point you in the direction of a fantastic digital resource, an online prayer book for use during the coronavirus outbreak. That is freely available to download, share and use here.  If you would like to buy physical copies of these booklets to send out through the Royal Mail, packs of 10 and of 50 are available from here. I know from colleagues in London that demand is expected to be high and they are asking, if at all possible, for people to put in their bulk orders by Tuesday morning, when they will make decisions on the size of a second print run.

Yesterday I sent you the details of the services that Bishop Philip and Ruth have prepared/recorded for Sunday, and also details of the service in Cornish on Sunday afternoon. As I know Bishop Philip said previously, these resources are intended to be helpful to you and complement what you are doing locally, and certainly not replace it! Thanks for all you continue to do and the creativity so many of you are showing in meeting the current challenges.

If you are looking for information from a previous one of these updates, they can be found along with lots of other information that might be useful here on the website.

UPDATE 16.4.30

Fortunately, the rate at which new guidance is being issued has also slowed, so I don’t anticipate the updates from me and colleagues being quite so frequent for the time being.  Nice as it has been to stay in touch, I am sure many of you will breathe a sigh of relief that the amount of information hurtling towards you down the information superhighway has slowed! However, I can tell you that Bishop Philip is in the process of preparing a pastoral letter for the diocese, which we will distribute either tomorrow or early next week.

There haven’t been many recent changes to the national church guidance, except an addition to the FAQs section on holding remote PCC meetings. There is loads of information on the national church advice and guidance page, including this, here. I’ve also had a couple of people inquiring about information that has been in previous updates from me, and that can all be found on our website under ‘Latest Updates’ here. If you have additional queries, please address them to your respective archdeacon in the first instance.

Now to the worship for Low Sunday, April 19. Bishop Philip and Ruth have recorded a service of worship that will go live on our website from 8am on Sunday morning, and will be in the same format as the worship from Palm Sunday and others that you may have seen. We will also publicise this on social media. Please note that we make sure these recorded services are subtitled.

However, in addition to this, Philip and Ruth will be leading an all-ages, interactive Facebook Live session on Sunday at 9.30am. It will be visible on the Diocese Facebook page live (and afterwards as a recording). They haven’t shared with me their detailed plans, but it apparently involves Doubting Thomas, a penguin and a banana 🙂

On Sunday afternoon, at 3pm, there will be a Service for Eastertide in Cornish. This will take place via Zoom (video-conferencing software, although you can also join by telephone). The service will last about half an hour. Because of the way Zoom works, you will need an invitation to join the meeting, so if you would like to attend, please email Revd Canon Jane Kneebone, Chaplain to the Gorsedh, on janekneebone@gmail.com, and she will arrange for you to be invited and ensure that you receive an order of service. The service will be written in Cornish and English, so it is accessible even if you are not a Cornish speaker.

UPDATE 9.4.20

This is the final planned update from us until Tuesday next week, so you will not hear from us for a few days by email at least – which might be a welcome respite for you if you are feeling all emailed out! However, we do have quite a bit planned that you might like to be involved with.

Tomorrow morning at 8am a service of prayer and meditation for Good Friday, that Ruth and I recorded here at the chapel in Lis Escop, will go live. You will be able to access it from a story on the homepage of the diocesan website, or from Facebook and Twitter. It represents a change in pace and feel to what we have recorded so far, but I hope you will feel it appropriate for Good Friday at this strange and – for many – sad time.

On Easter Day I have decided to try another ‘first’, and will be leading a Eucharist at 11.00am on Facebook Live. Of course it’s not the same as being able to celebrate communion in our own parish church, but nevertheless I hope it will offer us an opportunity to be ’together’ in our online church to celebrate the miracle of the resurrection. This will be hosted on the diocesan Facebook page – and I hope to ’see’ many of you there! It will be available there as a recording afterwards if you’re not able to make it for 11.00. (I realised that there was no single ‘good time’ for everyone shortly before it dawned on me that asking 325 individuals what time suited them best was perhaps not my smartest move!)

Of course, I recognise that some churches will also be streaming or recording their own services and this service is not in any sense designed to replace those, but to provide something where nothing else is available, or something extra in addition.

This morning I was joined by around 170 clergy and readers as to reaffirm of our commitment to ministry – via the marvels of the video-conferencing software, Zoom. We hope to be able to share a video of that later this afternoon on the diocesan website and on our social media channels. We are each called to dig deep at a time such as this, and I certainly found it helpful and uplifting to reaffirm my vows in fellowship with so many wonderful and committed people.

On Sunday evening I am taking part in an event called South West Prays, which will see thousands of Christians from across the area tune it at 8pm to take part and participate in a half-hour, Easter Sunday event. You can tune in here:  http://live.rediscoverchurch.com at 8pm. Around 20 Christian leaders of different styles and traditions from across the South West will be leading the event, so I hope that may appeal to some of you.

Archdeacons Audrey and Paul have had some positive news from the registrar – and that is for couples who are going to be married. The question was raised as to whether this period when services are suspended would count as ‘habitual attendance at public worship for six months or more’. The news is that, provided couples had already started to attend a church before services were suspended, and are only prevented from maintaining attendance due to the suspension of service, provided that couples resume as soon as services do, then the ‘gap’ will still count! More can be found about this here: http://www.facultyoffice.org.uk/special-licences/marriage-law-news/

That is all from me for now, except to wish each and every one of you a blessed Good Friday and joyful, hopeful Easter –  during which I hope we can each gain renewed strength and courage from the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

+Philip

UPDATE 7.4.20

Readers and clergy will by now have received an invitation to a Zoom meeting to join in a Service for the reaffirmation of commitment to ministry this Maundy Thursday. I apologise that we cannot open this more widely but there are technical restrictions in place on the number who can join in. But if you have been invited then I do hope you will be able to accept the invitation. Now more than ever it seems to me that we need to seek strength from one another and from our God for the mission and ministry to which he calls us. NB – we are planning to record this zoom meeting so others can then access it later in the day (e.g. Readers who are working) so please be aware of that fact.

You may have seen a piece in the Telegraph today headlined ‘Bishop tells clergy to defy Easter guidelines’. Frankly that is a serious piece of fake news. It refers to the fact that the Bishop of London has given extremely limited permission to clergy to livestream from their churches if, for example, they can access the church from within their vicarage. I want to stress that in the Diocese our guidelines have not changed and we are not allowing any exceptions to them. The Church of England has been praised for setting an example for other faith groups, where resistance to meeting has been much stronger: and I think, frankly it’s important that we express solidarity with everyone else in lockdown and don’t seek to claim special privilege.

I mentioned the delay to ordinations yesterday in a comment about deacons taking weddings. That should have read ‘possible delay’ as we are still uncertain as to whether delay will be necessary. We will take a definitive decision after Easter but are writing today to all Training Incumbents, curates affected, final-year ordinands to put them in the picture.

This is the strangest of holy weeks, but it’s surely never more important that we walk the way of the cross and find it none other than the way of life and peace – and hope.

With my love and prayers, as ever

+Philip

UPDATE 6.4.20

I am sure that you are all feeling bombarded with guidance, and my apologies for that! One of the reasons for such regular mailings is, of course, that the guidance changes regularly. One particular update to make you aware of today is the document on ‘Securing and caring for your church buildings during the Covid-19 pandemic: advice for incumbents, churchwardens and PCC members’ which you will find here. This was last updated on Friday, so I would urge you please to give it a read – there are quite a few changes. Also, the main Coronavirus page on the Church of England website here contains lots of helpful information about all manner of things, so please do keep checking back (sorry, I know I am sounding like a stuck record, but I fear the track may not change for some time!).

A note from Bishop Philip: ‘Given the delay in ordinations to the priesthood this year I’ve been asked about those affected who were going to be taking weddings this summer. Of course many have been postponed, but it’s worth saying that in principle deacons can take weddings. It’s a matter of pastoral practice rather than legality that they don’t normally, but exceptional circumstances can allow it – and these are certainly they! The blessing pronounced over the couple ought to be amended simply by adding the word ‘may’ before it. There’s more detail in here in a helpful note from our friends across the Tamar: http://exeter.anglican.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/DEACONS-AND-WEDDINGS-1.pdf “

Becky Clarke, from the cathedrals and church buildings division, sent out an email on Friday with a couple of things I need to pass on to you.

The first of these is:

  1. Historic England has launched a survey, the purpose of which is to capture information from parts of the sector that may not have been reached by the National Lottery Heritage Fund so that we can brief the DCMS on the full picture of how the sector is being affected. This relates particularly to point 2c. above (The needs of the commercial, freelance and contractor parts of the sector, especially conservators and those with specialist and traditional building and craft skills). CCB is a partner in this, and will receive all the data (anonymised) so we can analyse its implications for our churches in particular. Therefore please complete it and encourage parishes to do the same: https://historicengland.org.uk/coronavirus/heritage-sector/. The survey closes at midnight on Easter Monday but early replies are appreciated.

And the second relates to finance:

  1. The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), Arts Council, and National Lottery Community Fund have all announced responses to the pandemic. The attached document, which is not at present on the website, summarises all of the existing government support measures, with a section at the end (Appendix 2) on support for charities, which summarises all of these funds and provides links to the relevant websites. We believe churches are eligible for all of these, if they meet the other criteria for the relevant fund. A few important notes on this:
    1. Any parish in the middle of a NLHF project should contact their local representative, if they have not already done so.
    2. Unfortunately the NLHF has announced that, in order to focus on emergency funding, it is closed to new applications for the time being.
    3. Any parish wishing to apply to the Arts Council should note the very short application deadlines: one week to apply from when applications open next week, and then one following round the week after.
    4. The Community Fund is not providing ‘emergency funding’ per se but is focusing its existing grant-giving on addressing the impacts of Coronavirus, so churches would need to apply through their usual funding routes. We believe these to be relatively straightforward and well supported by the Fund’s expert grants team. The Community Fund is often overlooked by churches but definitely worth a look.

Then attachment talks about finance matters that go far beyond grant funding, and may be useful for your reference.

I promised that I would send you Bishop Philip’s Easter message today, as you might like to include it in your weekly newsletters. You will find it here, on our website – but please be aware I am not planning to publicise it more widely until Wednesday, so please don’t post it on social media or anything like that before then. We will share it on social media midweek.

As ever, please do pass on the information here to colleagues on the distribution list who are not on email. Also, the document on securing and caring for church buildings is intended for all PCC members, so please do make your parish colleagues aware.

If you have any queries, please get in touch with your respective archdeacon in the first instance.

UPDATE 3.4.20

A reminder to you all that at 11am on Sunday, the people of Cornwall are being invited to take part in a shared moment of prayer, by coming to their doorsteps or to an open window, and saying the Lord’s Prayer. More on this initiative, here – and before anybody asks, it’s equally welcome in any language and any version 😉

Today there are some things that need our attention, and potentially also your help to publicise, please.

The Cornish food banks are under varying degrees of pressure and doing an amazing job of ensuring that some of our more vulnerable families and individuals have food to eat. Jane Yeomans at Transformation Cornwall and our Social Responsibility Officer, Revd Andrew Yates, have worked together to put together details of 12 of the Cornish food banks, and how we can help individuals in need, and also help people to identify how they can give support – be it through food, money, or time. Please click here to find out the precise situation at your local food bank.

Homelessness charity St Petrocs has launched a Covid-19 emergency appeal on Crowdfunder to help them remain open and offer support to those who need a roof over their heads. You can donate here.

The sad truth is that the following will certainly apply to some people on this mailing list – as well as potentially to your friends, colleagues and parishioners. The coronavirus situation may well exacerbate the risks of domestic violence, and potentially make it more difficult for people to seek help.  Please take a look at the Safer Cornwall website for more information here. There’s a video on Facebook that I’ve shared this morning, and if you get a chance do please share – I can imagine some people are feeling terribly trapped and fearful right now.

On Sunday, there will be a recorded service of Palm Sunday worship that Bishop Philip and Ruth have made. It will be available from 6am on the homepage of the diocesan website, and shortly after on Facebook and Twitter. You might like to watch and/or share this. An important reminder, as Bishop Philip said yesterday,  is that we don’t all have to be doing this stuff, it isn’t right for everybody. Hopefully the mix of everybody’s different skills and resources across the diocese means that there is something for everyone. A few days ago I asked for people who aren’t on social media but who would like to have a bit of help doing something ‘technical’ to get in touch so I could match them with someone who can help. I have had several offers of help and support – thanks for those! – but nobody has contacted me to ask me to put them in touch with a ‘techno-buddy’. Don’t be shy – I am picking up an incredible sense of solidarity and a desire to help one another!
Back to Sunday – at 9am, the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, will broadcast a Holy Communion service from his home in Salford on the Church of England’s Facebook page here. He is one of several people encouraging Christians to make their own ‘palm’ crosses – from paper or card – and display them in their windows.
At 10.45am on Sunday, BBC One will broadcast a service from Hereford Cathedral which was recorded before the current level of restrictions was in place. For those who have online options, it will be available afterwards on iPlayer, but it might be nice for those who don’t have the internet to be able to watch it (even if they do have to nip to a window at 11 for the Lord’s Prayer!).
For a link to details of the BBC’s Easter programming, click here – there are some interesting, uplifting, reflective, amusing and thought-provoking programmes planned for television and on the radio.
If you have any individual queries, particularly in interpreting the guidance we have been given (and there’s been quite a bit of it!), please do get in touch with your respective archdeacon.

UPDATE 2.4.20

Whether you are a member of the clergy or the laity, you are receiving this email because you are involved in leadership roles in your parishes. So I hope that the new resource I can point you towards today will be of interest to each and every one of you.The document is called  ‘Wellbeing of clergy and lay ministers during the coronavirus pandemic’ and can be found here. Please do take the time to read it – unless we take time to take care of ourselves, we won’t be at our best to look after those around us.

Bishop Philip has written you the note below, detailing his plans for Easter week:
Dear friends,
 
I thought it might be helpful if you knew what resources we’ll be providing centrally for Holy Week and Easter in this strange season, so here’s a brief summary, with a few comments afterwards:
 
Palm Sunday: Ruth and I have recorded a short act of worship, just as we did for last Sunday, that will be available on the diocesan website and social media. There is also an Order of Service people can use to follow which is attached to this email and will be available on our dedicated Facebook page for sharing ideas and supporting each other.
 
Maundy Thursday: We will be inviting clergy and Readers to a ‘Service for the reaffirmation of commitment to ministry’ which we will hold over Zoom, so it can be interactive. Details will follow. Apologies that we cannot open this to everybody but we are limited in the number we can have involved at any one time.
 
Good Friday: There will be an extended service of reading and meditations for Good Friday available on the usual channels, recorded in the Chapel here at Lis Escop.
 
Easter Day: It’s vitally important that even in the midst of uncertainty and grief that we proclaim our hope in the resurrection of Jesus, risen from the dead, and this we will do via a Eucharist, again recorded here at Lis Escop.
 
These are resources for you to use and publicise as you wish. There is no pressure to use them, and you may well want do something locally: indeed I’d welcome that if you are able to. But I don’t want anyone to feel that they have to, especially if they are struggling with the technology.
 
My sense is that this year the events of Holy Week and Easter will have a new resonance all of their own and speak profoundly into our strange very difficult circumstances. So whatever resources we use, let’s take the opportunity to draw close to the Lord in this season, to follow him through Gethsemane to Golgotha – and out to the joy of resurrection in that other garden.
 
With my prayers, and thanks to you all
 
+Philip
In addition to this, on Monday I will send out a link to an Easter message from Bishop Philip. This is the sort of thing that in ’normal’ times would go to the local press, but it may well be something you would like to include in your weekly bulletins/newsletters/pew sheets (or whatever we call them right now!)
Please, as ever, do what you can to pass on this information to colleagues in your parishes who are not on email.

UPDATE 1.4.20

This morning I had my weekly ‘webinar’ with comms colleagues from dioceses across the CofE, and colleagues in Church House Westminster and from Lambeth Palace. One of the main benefits of the conference is that we get a weekly opportunity to hear from the Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy, who is health advisor to the CofE. Most weeks we also speak with the Revd Prof Gina Radford, who is a priest in the Exeter Diocese but who until last year was also deputy chief medical officer – so it feels as though we are getting first-class information.

Something that Brendan said this morning, which reminded me of some conversations I and others have had locally, was that they are getting lots of requests for people who would like their activity to be designated ‘essential’ and thereby exempt from the ’Stay at Home’ mantra. These requests range across different activities, including things like outdoor work on churchyards and grass cutting, to delivering materials to parishioners. I listened intently to this, because I feel that we have taken a hard line when people have asked us for our opinions. Brendan was very clear, though, that every one of these actions represents a non-essential breaking of the ’stay at home’ rule, and if you scale that up across the country, it potentially represents thousands of unnecessary movements. He is keen that we all set good examples in our communities.

Along similar lines, I know as we get ready for Easter that many of you are preparing materials for parishioners. The following paragraph has been added to the guidance found in the FAQs on the national Coronavirus page hereSome studies suggest that Coronavirus COVID-19 can live on paper and cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, and so any paper delivery represents a transmission risk. Local hand-deliveries also mean a volunteer will touch gates and postboxes and may come into close proximity with those who may be shielding. For these reasons, parishes are encouraged to look to digital communication, and telephone calls to keep in touch. The Government has designated postal workers and delivery professionals as key-workers, so any vital printed communication should be sent through the post.

I am really sorry if that is a disappointment to you, or scuppers your plans.

Many of you will also be pleased to note that EIG has changed its guidance around the inspection of churches. I know that has caused a few questions! That guidance now states:

If possible, arrange for someone to visit the church property on a weekly basis to check it remains secure, whilst following the latest government guidelines on travel/movement of people. This can be completed from the outside, without entering the premises. Could people taking their permitted daily exercise or shopping for essentials pass by the church to complete these checks?

UPDATE 30.3.20

Yesterday was a remarkable day and I wanted to give a big shout out to so many of you who have really gone to extraordinary lengths to do something different – and frequently outside your comfort zones – to reach out from your homes to so many people in parishes the length and breadth of the diocese. Many of us are on steep learning curves, and together we will find out what works and what doesn’t. And we can rest assured that it won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution for Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and our two parishes in Devon!

As we are gaining so much expertise, and learning about who is already good at stuff we’ve never heard of, it is a good idea for us to try and share our skills and talents around. I had a couple of emails from people asking how to go about using technology like Zoom, and also from people who have only email but no further online connectivity, and others whose friends and neighbour don’t have computers. I’ve posted to this effect on our support and best practice Facebook group  and some people are already buddying themselves up with one another. However, if you would like some help with a particular technical solution – be that phone-based or web-based, do feel free to ask the group for help (preferable as it doesn’t need me to ‘match-make’), or if you are not on Facebook drop me an email or ring me, and I will try and find someone with experience in what you are doing to help you. Some of you might like to simply buddy up to share online resources with another parish and free up resources to champion the merits of pastoral care and prayer by telephone!

On a rather more sombre note, the national church has issued some guidance and resources on funerals to help people make sense of the changes brought about by the current public health guidance. The resources can all be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/life-events/funerals/clergy-funeral-and-bereavement-resources. There is also an opportunity to light a ‘virtual candle’ online for someone – which, having tried it, I have no doubt will divide opinion! There is also a short advice document for clergy, outline orders of service for funerals at crematoria and at the graveside, and a simple reflection and prayers which can be shared by ministers with those who are unable to attend funerals.

The national church has updated some sections of its Covid-19 guidance here. The updates to the FAQs include topics such as whether church halls can still be used for blood donation sessions or as night shelters, and how to ensure church buildings are safe and secure while closed.

And on another note entirely, Sue Thorold has asked me to let you all know that new faculty rules come into force on Wednesday, April 1st. Some more information about this is available on our website here.

UPDATE 26.3.30

Each of us is having to make major adjustments to our lives. We are all living with a lot of change and, to be honest, a significant degree of anxiety about what the future holds for us and for those we love. It is fitting and helpful, then, that the national church has today launched a series of reflections on how to cope with anxiety and loneliness in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, including simple Christian meditation techniques and five tips.

A number of actions that could help people feeling isolated or worried, as well as those who are grieving, are put forward in a new guide Supporting Good Mental Health and written by Durham University academic Revd Professor Chris Cook with Ruth Rice, director of the Christian mental health charity, Renew Wellbeing.

The booklet gives advice ranging from putting aside time to rest and eating and sleeping well, to using the phone and the internet to reach those who may be struggling on their own. Making a list of all the good things – and people – that you miss when you are on your own and thanking God for them, can be a way of helping cope with loneliness, the guide says.

Simple prayers can be said repeatedly as a means of helping to deal with stress, and lighting a candle can be a helpful form of prayer for some people (but be careful not to set light to anything in the process – unlike one notable poor soul those of you on social media may have seen!). Quotations from the Bible can be a useful aide to meditation and calming fears, including writing down and repeating short passages, it suggests.

To download a (free ) PDF of the pamphlet or to see each of the thirteen reflections, click here.

In addition, the church has suggested five tips for tackling loneliness and isolation:

  • Pray. Light a candle, if safe, and pray for hope, faith and strength to keep loving and caring for each other during this time of struggle.
  • Talk about how you feel. This may be difficult if you are self-isolating, but do use the telephone, internet, and social media. If you need to contact a counsellor this can be arranged by your GP, or via local agencies, or privately. Samaritans are there 24 hours a day, every day, and it’s free to call them on 116 123.
  • Focus on the things that you can change, not on the things you can’t.
  • Look after yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually. Plan in things that you enjoy at regular intervals during the day – a TV programme, a phone call, a book, a favourite dish, a game.
  • Look after others. Even if only in small ways, but do what you can: a smile, a kind word, writing a letter or an email.

As ever, please do come and seek out the diocesan Facebook group for us to share best practice and support one another here.

Oh, and please do keep on sharing this information with your colleagues who are not connected via email or social media – there is every chance they will be feeling even more isolated in these circumstances, and if ringing to tell them about this email gives you a good reason to phone, then all the better!

UPDATE 25.3.20

We have had a few questions in terms of what might be permissible. The view of the Revd Dr Brendan McCarthy, who is the health adviser to the national church, is very firmly to echo the call from the NHS: Stay at Home, Save Lives. It is that simple. There is a view that people believing they are somehow an exception to the rule has increased the level of transmission in other countries that are ahead of us in this pandemic. So staying home is the best thing we can all do for ourselves, for our families and neighbours, and to help the NHS cope with the anticipated spike in demand for critical care.

Unless … of course … you are willing and able to act as a volunteer for any of the essential services being co-ordinated by the bodies mentioned in yesterday’s email to you all. But in those circumstances, social distancing rules must be strictly adhered to.

Our colleagues in the national team have been working flat out to try and bring you some clarity about what the current rules mean for us. They have started fleshing out the FAQs section on the national page – see here – which is a vital source of information for us all. Please do visit the page and continue to check back, as they will steadily be adding to the list of questions and answers.

Ecclesiastical Insurance has posted some new guidance for temporarily closed churches during the Covid-19 outbreak, and that can be found here.

If there is anybody not on email who fits within the distribution list here, could I ask you as ever to do what you can to pass the information on safely – which will in all likelihood be by phone!

And if you would like to sign up to our new Facebook support and best practice group, you can find it here. You won’t be alone – at the time writing this we had 217 members.

UPDATE 24.3.20

Last night we only really knew the headlines of the Prime Minister’s announcement, and had an initial response from Archbishop Justin and Bishop Philip.  But we are now in a position to give a little more information. The archbishops and all the bishops have today written to all the Church of England clergy setting out the guidance and expectations. The full letter can be found here and I would urge you all please to read and digest it.

In summary, however, here are the guidelines we must all now follow:

• Our church buildings are closed for public worship and for private prayer.
• Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible.
• There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice.
• Funerals can only happen at the crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.
• Live streaming of services is more important than ever and is still permissible from homes.
• Foodbanks should continue where possible under strict guidelines and may have to move to be delivery points not places where people gather. If you can do consider making a financial contribution to your nearest foodbank. 

The letter goes on to say: “With our thanks to you all for you are bearing at this extraordinary time. We know that God is with us and we pray with you that in the midst of all this pain and sorrow we can remain focussed on the One who gives us hope.”

The communique also asks us all to put a notice on our church buildings to say they are closed, and an editable template is available here. However, please only do this if you can so as part of your daily exercise and in accordance with the new measures.

Our colleagues Sarah Acraman and Sarah Welply have put together some really helpful and practical pastoral guidance called Pastoral Support in Parishes, and that can be found here. Please bear in mind that, while everyone is doing their best to keep our resources updated, everything must be read in conjunction with the latest government guidance.

As you might imagine, there is a need for all kinds of help within our communities. Volunteer Cornwall is helping to match volunteers with need. If you can offer our help please email them on mid@volunteercornwall.org.uk and they will do their best to match what you can offer with someone else’s need. Likewise, if you or a parishioner needs some help with, for example, shopping, collecting medicines or other practical help and support, and you are unable to support them, you can contact Volunteer Cornwall directly to request a volunteer by ringing 01872 265300 or emailing requestforhelp@volunteercornwall.org.uk. They have made arrangements with local pharmacies to include prescription collection as part of the service – and will follow up with the individual to ensure the volunteering has happened and their needs were met.

Please also be aware of the one-stop shop at https://cornwall-link.madeopen.co.uk – which offers an online platform for people to marry what people are able to offer with need. There is lots of information and advice there – not least a way for people to either offer their services or try and source volunteers.

Finally, for today, the members of our Episcopal College have asked me to share with you the following:

Thoughts for Ministers During the First Phase of the Coronavirus Crisis

We are offering these out of the work of a three-year project on trauma and tragedy in Christian congregations.

First thought: context is everything. You will know better than anyone else how your particular community is likely to react.

Second: this is a trauma to communities, the nation, the world. It’s not a shock-event like a fire or a terrorist attack, but slowly there has built, and is still worsening, a crisis that shatters people’s assumptions that the world is generally safe and reliable, and that all that we have worked for in businesses, churches and communities will be fruitful.  The loss of those assumptions, the breaking of connections between people, and the overwhelming of people’s ordinary resources – all of these are characteristic of trauma.

Some of the wisdom that has been gained about trauma recently can help us:

  • People’s whole selves are affected – they may feel all sorts of strange symptoms because the body is reacting to the fact that they are not safe. Emotions will be all over the place in surprising ways. Concentration may be difficult. Sharing this information – that it is normal to be up, down, energetic, exhausted, afraid – will help people to cope with it.
  • People react very differently depending on different backgrounds and experiences, including past traumas.
  • People respond best when they have clear, reliable information; when they have something to do – ‘agency’ of some sort; and when they are cared for in warm and authentic ways. Even phone calls can be reassuring.
  • We make sense of things by being able to integrate the experience into an overarching story. But it is much too soon to assemble a coherent narrative out of all this. Even the process of meaningfully gathering together to lament what has been lost is very hard. The trauma is unfolding and there are many losses yet unrevealed

Community responses to disaster typically show a ‘heroic phase’, full of energy and self-sacrifice, which burns itself out and is followed by a ‘disillusionment phase’, which may contain much mutual blame and suspicion. Only as the disillusionment phase loses its force can realistic, hopeful re-making take place.

Many of the responses in communities can be celebrated and affirmed. It is worth ministers thinking about what, over and above the generous and heroic actions of many in the secular world, Christian story and practice can contribute. That is particularly true in this time approaching Holy Week and Easter. Public worship may be suspended, but these great transformative moments in the whole human story need some sort of marking.

Lastly and in a way most importantly, this is a very confusing and draining time, a time when ordinary healthy rhythms are lost. Trauma professionals are disoriented! You may be feeling in yourself and your body the impact of trauma – feeling low and anxious one day and hard to get your brain in gear, energetic the next, and all at a time when clergy are needing to be creative and adaptive in their approach. So self-care, attending to your own well-being, is vital. That includes the basics of good rest, eating, and exercise. It also includes having people you trust whom you can share with, and making sure you are in touch with them.

With warmest wishes for every blessing in this strange time,

Christopher Southgate, Carla Grosch-Miller and Hilary Ison

Tragedies and Christian Congregations Project

www.tragedyandcongregations.org.uk

If you are interested in finding out more, Tragedies and Christian Congregations ed. Megan Warner et al is published by Routledge and is available from c.c.b.southgate@ex.ac.uk for £20 plus postage.

We hope that is of some help to you. We will be in touch again shortly as more information is issued. The latest from the national Church of England will be available here. In the meantime we may well see you on our Facebook support and best practice group, here.

As ever, if you have colleagues in your parish who are not on email, please share this information with them if possible.

UPDATE 23.3.20

Thank you all for you continue to do in your parishes and communities. We didn’t have a lot of notice that this weekend was going to be so very different for us all, but people were very quick out of the blocks and finding lots of amazing and innovative ways to continue with prayer, church and community.

The main headline news tonight is of course that, among a raft of other very significant restrictions, the decision has been taken to close all of our churches until further notice – including, we understand, for private prayer. Baptisms and weddings are now also suspended until further notice.  This is clearly a blow to us, but also gives us clarity that I know will be welcomed by some because we have been worrying about how we can keep churches clean and safe without risking the health of both those who visit and those who take care of the buildings.

Archbishop Justin tonight said: “In the light of the Government’s measures, announced by the Prime Minister this evening, we urge everyone to follow the instructions given. We will give a fuller statement of advice as soon as possible. Let us continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable, and build our communities, even while separated.”

Bishop Philip said: “Archbishop Justin’s statement is strongly echoed by me and the other diocesan bishops. It is clear given the increase in the number of people being infected by, and indeed dying from, Covid-19, that stricter measures to enforce social distancing are required. Closing our churches at a time such as this may feel counter-intuitive to many of us, but we are driven by the imperative to do everything we can to care for and protect people in our parishes and communities.

“To be very clear this means we all – clergy included – are expected to stay at home. It is not acceptable to go to church to say prayers. Please do that at home. Any livestreaming or recording of services can of course still be done from there. But I don’t want people to feel under pressure to do that. You must do what works for you and in your own context.

“It is not often in our history that loving our neighbours has involved physically distancing ourselves from them, but that is the position we find ourselves in. And thankfully there are many ways of staying in touch with one another without visiting. Social media and technological solutions like video-conferencing have been a boon for many, but of course we all remember that there are many people in our communities who are not connected in this way – so please do remember to make maximum use of your telephones!”

More details on the closure of churches will be available on the Church of England website here  but please bear with colleagues on the national team who are having to respond quickly to this changing situation tonight.

It has also today been announced that the Lambeth Conference has been postponed until 2021. More on this announcement here.

One of the most pressing issues in Cornwall today is that of foodbanks/community kitchens, which are seeing an exponential growth in demand alongside a shortage in donations, and a dearth of younger volunteers and volunteer drivers. Please if you have any capacity of this kind in your parish be in touch with your food bank to see if you can help.  They will also be pressing for cash donations to help them buy in food from wholesalers, etc. We’re working hard to see how the latest Govt guidance affects volunteering for foodbanks.

Those of you who are looking at video conferencing, please be aware of a special offer for charities from Zoom – details here: https://www.charitydigitalexchange.org/category/donor-partner/zoom. We have used it to hold meetings now that everybody in Church House is working from home, and the technology is relatively simple and robust, and it is surprisingly reassuring to see all those familiar faces.

Bishop Philip is in regular contact with County Hall, the RCHT and the lieutenancy, and we are represented on the Cornwall Communities Cell by our Social Responsibility Officer, Revd Andrew Yates – this organisation brings together the voluntary sector, town, parish and county councils,  plus some other statutory  organisations, to try and co-ordinate community response.

We are endeavouring to keep everything related to the virus under ‘one roof’ on our website, and you will find that here.

Remember we have a new Facebook group called ‘Diocese of Truro – let’s share best practice and support one another’. It’s a public group so you can just search for it within Facebook or alternatively find it here.

Please, as ever, if you have colleagues who are not on email but ought to be aware of this information, please ensure you pass it on to them.

We will publish more details once we have them.

UPDATE 20.3.20

  • Firstly, a reminder about the national Church of England’s page for information, guidance and FAQs here.  If you have a query on any of this, please feel free to address it with your respective archdeacon.
  • Please note that Church House is now physically closed but, like all of you, colleagues there are working on different ways of going about their business.  People have effectively moved over to working from home wherever possible. While there is some capacity for phone messages to be forwarded for key staff, email would seem a really sensible way of making initial contact.
  • The archbishops have written a joint letter to clergy, which can be found here  Please do read this as it contains both practical and spiritual guidance. There you will also find a guide to prayer in church, which has also been sent to us from Lambeth.
  • Weddings and baptism guidance for clergy and parish leaders has been updated and circulated to them. The public-facing guidance on weddings and baptisms has also been updated and can be found in the FAQs section here.
  • The Government has now issued further guidance on what constitutes the children of ‘key workers’, in terms of school attendance. This guidance is here. This is helpful although we are awaiting further clarification: our initial understanding of it is that it is not a blanket exemption for what is termed ‘religious staff’, more a provision to use when there is no alternative. If you wish to avail yourself of this provision for the time being, please clear it with Bishop Philip via his office. Do please bear in mind that the bottom line is that ‘if children can stay safely at home, they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading’.
  • Thanks to all of you who have responded to us re the proportion of parishioners who are on social media/have email. Sorry we haven’t been able to get back to everybody in person, but we are collating that information and will be feeding it through to colleagues in next week’s diocesan planning meetings.
  • More than 90 people have already joined our new Facebook group. This is a forum for us all to share good ideas and support one another as we try to navigate these unfamiliar waters. You can find that here or search for Diocese of Truro – let’s share best practice and support one another! – please do sign up and join in.
  • On Sunday, Archbishop Justin will lead the first national ‘virtual service’ at 8am on Sunday. More details of that are available here. Many of you are also looking at how you will connect with your parishioners using technology if you cannot get out to visit them or celebrate public worship in your churches. We will publish more details about recorded/streamed services on our website and on social media, so please do let us know what you are planning. In addition, Bishop Philip will be on Donna Birrell’s Sunday morning show from around 7am.

UPDATE 19.3.20

There are a few points we need to share with you today.

  • Firstly, yesterday we issued guidance that said: “For their own protection, all authorised ministers and volunteers over the age of 70 (including PTOs and lay officers) and all those with underlying health conditions (see government guidance here) are required to refrain from all public ministry and voluntary work in public places, including pastoral care.” Bishop Philip has now extended this to include anybody who shares their homes with people in these categories – our priority must be to do what we can protect people, especially those in vulnerable categories. 
  • The Church of England has updated its guidance for clergy conducting funerals. This has been sent to clergy and parish leaders.
  • The Church of England has also updated its public-facing guidance on funerals, baptisms and weddings on its website here. NB this guidance is significantly strengthened, so please do take the time to read it. 
  • Bishop Philip has signed an instrument, whose general effect is to extend the time for parishes to hold their APCMs to the end of October, with current office holders (churchwardens, deanery synod representatives and PCC members) remaining in office longer than they would otherwise do so.  In particular, deanery synod representatives elected in 2017 will remain in office until 30 November 2020 (instead of 30 June 2020).
  • It surely goes without saying, but please stay in close contact with your local food bank as they are likely to be stretched in terms of stock and volunteers.
  • Bishop Philip is very happy to make himself available to lead streamed/recorded services around the diocese, so please get in touch with his office if you would like him to visit you for this.
  • There has been a change in the rules governing the way PCC meetings are held in order for them to be held remotely.  Here are the details: Any member of a PCC may validly participate in a meeting of the PCC or a committee of the PCC through the medium of conference telephone or similar form of communication equipment provided that all persons participating in the meeting are able to hear and speak to each other throughout such meeting.  A person so participating shall be deemed to be present in person at the meeting and shall accordingly be counted in a quorum and be entitled to vote.  Such a meeting shall be deemed to take place where the chair of the meeting then is.  All business transacted in such manner by the PCC or a committee of the PCC shall for the purpose of the Rules be deemed to be validly and effectively transacted at a meeting of the PCC or a committee of the Board notwithstanding that all such members are not physically present at the same place.

UPDATE 18.3.20

We have today had the first meetings of our diocesan continuity groups, looking at some of the many different ways in which we can respond and plan to the current situation.

One of the streams of work was to bring together local guidance, which takes into account all the guidance from the national CofE, and of course the Government and the NHS, but which also addresses some issues on a local level. This is a work in progress and will be uploaded in its latest form to our website. We have created a specific resource area here, and will be adding to that and updating it as we are able.  The first strands of this guidance is pasted below, and there will be more to come in the following days.

Please note also that we will be creating a forum using social media in which you will be able to communicate easily with one another to share your thoughts and best practice. We are hearing loads of amazing ideas from people who are doing wonders to help their parishioners, and it is an exciting prospect for us all to be able to share these. I hope to bring you more details of that tomorrow (n.b. this is now likely to be next week, as we are working out the best way to do this that will be useful long-term and robust. It is a work in progress!)

Thank you for all those people who have been in touch with us with specific inquiries relating to their parishes. From now on, could questions from parishes please be directed to the respective archdeacon.

We are currently trying to assess the level of digital connectivity in our parishes – or perhaps more accurately the proportion of people who are not online and who do not or cannot access social media.

DIOCESE OF TRURO

GUIDANCE ON RESPONDING TO THE CHALLENGES POSED BY THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

Please note that this guidance is subject to change, and updates so it is worth regularly refreshing yourself and checking back to ensure you have seen the latest version.

Bishop Philip’s guiding principles:

1.    We must abide by the guidance given by the national church and the Bishop of Truro.

2.    We must move into a proactive pastoral mode.

3.    We must proceed with key ‘milestone’ events (e.g. occasional offices, ordinations, etc.) within the bounds of established health advice and guidance.

Public worship

In the light of the Government guidance around non-essential contact, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have issued advice that public worship is suspended until further notice. Public worship is defined as church services to which the public are invited to attend and take part in.

Churches should be open where possible but with no public worship services taking place. It is not, therefore, acceptable to continue to hold services of the Word or celebrate Holy Communion at the usual times. But churches should be open as much as possible for private prayer. Priests may speak with and pray for people who come into church (provided they are led by the social distancing protocols   here). But there should be no ‘public worship in disguise’.

Sharing prayers

Prayers can be said by clergy and ministers on behalf of everyone and churches should consider ways of sharing this with the wider community.

All those over 70 and those with underlying health conditions

For their own protection, all authorised ministers and volunteers over the age of 70 (including PTOs and lay officers) and all those with underlying health conditions (see government guidance here) are required to refrain from all public ministry and voluntary work in public places, including pastoral care.

Home groups

All home groups are suspended at the current time.

Confirmations

Confirmations are to be suspended until further notice.

Weddings and Banns

The Church of England issued updated guidance 17.03.20. Some of you will have agreed to marry couples following the publication of banns and, in some cases, will have already started the publication process.

Due to the Church of England’s guidance that acts of public worship should not go ahead at this time, there will not be the opportunity to publish banns. Therefore, if following consultation with couples, you decide that the solemnisation of the marriage is to go ahead, the couple will need to apply for a common licence (or Archbishop’s Special Licence) in order to allow the marriage validly to go ahead.

Clergy are advised to get in touch with either a surrogate for marriage licences (details below) or the Diocesan Registry (by email: truroregistry@vwv.co.uk) as soon as possible for advice on how to proceed with the marriage. If it is appropriate for the couple to obtain a common licence, the surrogate or Registry can assist with that process.  The fee for a CL is normally £200.  Given our current circumstances, the Diocesan Chancellor has agreed that the fees can be:

1.    For those whose marriage was planned to be by banns, who have not yet paid a fee: £50

2.    For those whose marriage was planned to be by banns and who have already paid a fee for the reading: no fee.

Please note, part of the process for obtaining a common licence requires one of the couple to swear an oath, therefore a face-to-face meeting must take place between that person and the person administering the oath. If this is likely to cause any issues e.g. because one or both of the couple are unwell (possibly with COVID-19 symptoms), please contact the Registry for further advice.

Wedding services can take place, but subject to the rules and guidance on social distancing. Any wedding in a church would need to be on a very small scale.

Only five people need to be present at a marriage service: the couple and the clergyperson, plus two witnesses.

The clergy in the diocese who are trained as marriage surrogates (able to issue common licenses) are:

  •      Revd Paul Beynon (Lostwithiel area) – 07896841802
  •      Revd Chris Painter (Tamar Valley area) – 01822 834170
  •      Revd Canon Judith Pollinger (Bodmin area) – 01208 880181
  •      Revd Canon Jem Thorold (Newquay area) – 01637 839276
  •      Revd Canon Vanda Perrett (St Buryan area) – 01736 810216
  •      Revd Emma Childs (near St Austell) – 01726 822236
  •      Revd David Miller (Helston area) – 01326 572516

More details regarding common licenses can be found here:

If at all unsure regarding legalities, contact the Registry (truroregistry@vwv.co.uk)

Funerals

There will still be funerals, but the rules on gatherings and social distancing need to be applied here, as everywhere. Due regard must be paid to protecting the elderly and vulnerable groups

UPDATE 17.3.20

The Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen has today issued the following pastoral statement in response to the Coronavirus situation.

My friends, I’m sharing this message today not just with the clergy and people of the Diocese of Truro, but with everyone here in Cornwall at what is a very challenging time for us all.

You’ll be aware of how much has changed in just a few short days. By now you will probably have heard too the call of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to suspend public worship for a season. That will come as a shock and challenge to many of you, but in the circumstances, and following the best medical advice, I’m sure it’s right.

But I want to say very clearly to you that does not mean the Church is shutting up shop! Far from it. Now is the time for the Church of God to rise to this great challenge of our times. I cannot help but feel that this crisis challenges us deeply to be just the kind of Church our God is a calling us to be.

One and All

And I believe too that that this crisis challenges Cornwall to be its very best: to express in heart and soul the spirit of One and All.

So to us all in Cornwall I would say – let us be the very best we can be. This is the opportunity we all have to shine, to be our better selves. It’s a great challenge: but let’s rise to it.

You are not alone

And if you are feeling isolated and fearful, remember you are not alone. There are many people standing by you, even if you can’t see them – and our God has not changed: he remains good and faithful and we can trust him and rely upon him. He won’t let us down.

And if you’re working in the public services, our NHS, the emergency services and the caring professions, planning and working to respond in the best way possible to the many challenges we face and who may be very stretched in the days to come: do know that we are cheering you on. We’re deeply thankful for you and are praying for you – and for your families too.

For the Church – whilst our pattern of worship will change significantly I think our church buildings need to be more open, not less, providing space for people to come and pray and be and socially interact (at an appropriate distance of course). We should use digital media creatively wherever we can and we are working on identifying a few churches in the diocese where live streaming of worship might be possible.

And we need to be the feet on the ground in our communities – identifying those who are lonely and isolated, fearful and grieving and doing all we can, within the constraints that are placed up on us, and without exposing people to unnecessary risk, to show in word and in deed the love of Christ.

Let’s keep food banks stocked

Likewise there will be others who will find these times very challenging economically: again we need to do all we can to meet their needs. Let’s keep the foodbanks well stocked up.

‘Business unusual’

So for us as a church this will not be business as usual. But it will NOT be no business, it will be ‘business unusual’. We’ll still be about the business of the Kingdom of God, but in new, different, committed, creative and deeply caring ways.

The big question this crisis asks of us as a Church is this: will we meet its challenge to love and serve and give as Jesus did, for we are nothing less than his Body here on earth? I pray we will and will not be found wanting at this great hour of need.

And to all of us I would say, across Cornwall, in this crisis, let’s be people of prayer. This crisis is bigger than any of us. But God is greater. So we need not be fearful – in the end we can be people of hope, as we become people of prayer: because there is a good future for us, beyond this, a good future that God holds out for us all.

‘Pray with me now’

And as this virus is no respecter of borders, I’m going to close with a prayer written by our neighbour, Bishop Robert, Bishop of Exeter. If you’d like to, do pray with me now:

Keep us good Lord under the shadow of your mercy, in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort, knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

And may God bless us all.

Bishop Philip has also recorded this as a video. To watch that, please click here.

Archbishops call for Church of England churches to put worship on hold

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have today called for Church of England churches to put public worship on hold, and become a “different sort of church” in the coming months to face the challenge of coronavirus.

In a joint letter, Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu said it was now necessary to put public services on hold until further notice.

But they said that far from having to “shut up shop”, the Church of England must face the challenge by becoming a radically different kind of church rooted in prayer and serving others.

It comes after the Government announced unprecedented peacetime measures to try to control the spread of the virus, with restrictions on public gatherings, transport and working.

The Archbishops expressed the desire that church buildings may, where practical, remain open as places of prayer for the community, observing social distancing recommendations.

They also invited clergy to maintain the ancient pattern of daily prayer and, where possible, the eucharist – live streaming their worship if they have the resources to do so.

And they urged congregations to be in the forefront of providing practical care and support for the most poor and the most vulnerable during the crisis.

“Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead,” they wrote.

“Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.

“We may not be able to pray with people in the ways that we are used to, but we can certainly pray for people. And we can certainly offer practical care and support.

“Please do carry on supporting the local foodbank and buy extra provisions for it.  Ensure the night shelters wherever possible are kept open.  There are many very encouraging schemes happening right across our country in communities to focus on caring for the most vulnerable and do continue to play your part in those.

“Then by our service, and by our love,  Jesus Christ will be made known, and the hope of the gospel – a hope that can counter fear and isolation – will spread across our land.”

They added: “This is a defining moment for the Church of England. Are we truly are a church for all, or just the church for ourselves.

“We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.”

The archbishops have joined other church leaders in calling for a day of prayer and action this Sunday (Mothering Sunday) particularly remembering those who are sick or anxious and all involved in health and emergency services.

Further information on what the suspension of public worship will mean will be available as soon as possible on the Church of England website. This page will be regularly updated.

The Church will be providing a range of resources to enable people to continue to walk with God at this difficult time. This includes #LiveLent daily reflections, prayer for the day audio and text and Alexa and Google Home smart speaker apps.

In the days and weeks ahead, the Church will be significantly expanding this output with audio of a simple daytime prayer and night prayer service, more video content and some live streaming, new mental health reflections to support people, and webinars to help churches stream sermons, events and make the most of social media. Read more here. The aim will be to make as much as possible available in simple downloadable and printable formats for those who can’t easily access the technology.

UPDATE – 16.3.2020

A number of updates have been made to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for churches section on the Church of England website. The guidance and FAQs can be found here.
The changes are:
• New section in FAQs dealing with Holy Week and Easter.
• Moving prayer and liturgy to a new page
• Adding information to  ‘digital resources’ outlining a significant expansion of audio, video, online webinars for churches and other relevant materials in the days ahead

This week the team in Church House, Westminster, will also be working on advice for supporting the elderly, vulnerable and those who are self-isolating.

Please note that this update preceded the Prime Minister’s press conference this evening (16.3.30), and so there will inevitably soon be a further update. We will update this page as soon as we have more information. 

End of update 16.3.2020

In light of the continued increase of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United Kingdom, the guidance of the Church of England is to suspend the administration of the chalice as well as physical contact during the sharing of the Peace, blessing or ‘laying on of hands’.

Current advice is that all priests should:

  • Offer Communion in one kind only to all communicants i.e. the consecrated bread/wafer/host, with the priest alone taking the wine;
  • Suspend handshaking or other direct physical contact during the sharing of the Peace;
  • Suspend direct physical contact as part of a blessing or ‘laying on of hands’.

The national church has issued a considerable amount of guidance to parishes and to the practical steps they might take to help minimise risk to all parishioners, clergy and lay church leaders.

This guidance is subject to change, and we are updating all clergy, PTOs, readers and Churchwardens as and when this advice is issued.

If you would like to see the full CofE guidance, as well as some helpful Frequently Asked Questions, please click here.

Bishop Philip said: “This is clearly a worrying time for us all, and it is important that we heed the health advice that we are receiving, both from our health advisors with the church and of course from the Government and from the NHS and Public Health England.

“Beyond this, though, our shared faith is central to how we as individuals respond to help those in our families, our congregations, and our communities. There will be people who are feeling extremely vulnerable and potentially isolated right now, and there are people who do not have comfortable homes and access to the hygiene measures and nourishing food that we so often take for granted. Let us call them to mind in our prayers, and consider how we may be of some comfort or practical help to them.

“Let us also pray for those people who are working in the public services, such as our beloved NHS, Social Care and the emergency services and councils, who are planning how they will be best able to respond to the challenges we face.

“But also, let us also not forget that Jesus died so that we may live life in all its fullness: it is right to be sensible and cautious, but not cowed. Let us give thanks for the wonderful abundance of gifts in all facets of our lives, and be sure to make the most of them.”

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