Coronavirus: latest updates
Churches open for private prayer and public worship
During the lockdown, our churches have been helping vulnerable people, feeding the hungry and sharing digital worship. Now that restrictions are being eased, many of our churches are opening to allow visitors to pray privately during the week. Most are also opening on Sundays for public worship. They're following government and national Church of England guidelines (which you can read below) to help keep all visitors safe.
Church life may well be different for some time to come as we cater for those who can physically attend; those who would prefer to access digital worship from home; and those who need to remain at home but don't have easy access to prayer and worship online. You can read how some of our churches are starting to adjust here.
Advice to parishes
The government has indicated that the new law limiting social gatherings to six people will not affect regular public worship, despite the Prime Minister's announcement of restrictions on September 22.
Physical worship services and private prayer can continue under the guidelines below, which are designed to keep our churches Covid-secure. Funerals are permitted to take place with up to 30 people attending. The limit for weddings and receptions is now 15. Choirs are permitted to rehearse and perform, so long as members don't mingle in groups of more than six. A helpful list of frequently-asked questions is available here.
You may still have questions regarding other meetings and activities hosted in our churches and church halls. The latest government advice for community venues, revised to reflect the new rules on social gatherings, can be read here.
New legislation about test and trace and the use of QR codes means that those managing church halls need to display the NHS QR code for test and trace purposes from September 24. Churches are not required to display this code, but are advised to do so. The latest guidance on test and trace procedures is here:
- National C of E guidance on test and trace (last updated September 23)
The latest advice from the national C of E about public worship services can be found here (these will soon be updated to reflect the latest restrictions):
- National C of E guidance about public worship (last updated September 18)
- National C of E guidance about face-coverings (August 7)
- National C of E guidance about Holy Communion (August 17)
- National C of E guidance about weddings (including information about wedding receptions) (August 17)
- National C of E guidance about baptisms (including information about baptism by full immersion) (August 27)
- National C of E guidance about funerals (August 17)
- National C of E guidance about confirmations (August 17)
The latest advice from the national C of E about opening church buildings can be found here:
- National C of E guidance about opening church buildings to the public (including information about church halls) (last updated August 7)
- National C of E risk assessment template (August 7)
- National C of E guidance about opening for private prayer (August 7)
And these documents include some significant information which may be useful:
- National C of E advice about pastoral care in the community, including in care homes (last updated August 17)
- National C of E advice about mission with children and young people (July 23)
- National C of E advice about keeping churches COVID-19 safe (July 23)
- Liturgical advice about the distribution of Communion (July 23)
- National C of E advice for outdoor services and churchyards (July 23)
There is more information from the national C of E here: www.churchofengland.org/coronavirus.
Vulnerable people and over 70s
The national C of E has now issued some nuanced advice about the personal risks to clergy, church workers or volunteers who are vulnerable, including those over 70, which you can read here. It suggests that individuals in these categories who would like to minister or volunteer in any capacity should discuss the risks to their own health.
The guidance from Bishop Christopher and the diocese is therefore:
- Clergy or Readers who are over 70 and would like to minister should talk to their incumbent about the personal risks involved, with reference to this document. If the incumbent is supportive of their request, he or she should discuss each specific case with the Bishop, Archdeacon or Warden of Readers;
- Church staff or volunteers who are over 70 and would like to help in church activities should talk to their incumbent about the personal risks involved, with reference to this document. The final decision will rest with the incumbent (or area dean, if in vacancy).
Faith at home
The national Church of England has just launched #FaithatHome - a programme of resources to inspire families to rebuild the lost habits of prayer and faithful reflection from home. This is especially important right now, but will also sustain our faith as we emerge from lockdown to a new pattern of public worship. The resources are available weekly via the Church of England's website here: www.churchofengland.org/faithathome.
Many churches are continuing to live-stream services or to offer pre-recorded digital worship experiences for those who are unable to come to physical worship. This is likely to be an important part of our mission and ministry for some time to come. You can read some of our advice about recording video material and live streaming, including details of licence issues and a list of churches that are live-streaming worship here.
Diocesan events and diocesan offices
Many diocesan events have been cancelled, or are happening digitally. Some may have been postponed until later in the year, some cancelled altogether. Do check on this list of events, as we will try to indicate – where possible – if an event might still happen either digitally or at a later date: www.portsmouth.anglican.org/events/.
Our diocesan offices, archdeacons’ offices and Bishopgrove remain closed to the public. Senior staff and diocesan officers are working from home. You can contact them by email, checking this list to discover who’s who: www.portsmouth.anglican.org/contact-us/
Helping your communities
Does your church want to help those in your local community who are vulnerable or feeling isolated? We've got some advice about how best to help, depending on the part of the diocese in which you live. Click here for details.
You can read information about the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on stewardship, the Parish Giving Scheme, APCMs and parish share here.
Prayer about the coronavirus outbreak
You may wish to say this prayer as part of your private devotions:
Loving heavenly Father,
we pray to you in this time of distress,
as we see a world struggling to cope with the coronavirus and all the suffering it’s caused.
We pray for peace and not panic.
We pray for faith and not fear.
We pray for hope in the face of despair.
We ask that you would protect those on the frontline, the doctors, nurses and paramedics who help those who are sick.
We long, Lord, to see your love surround those who are anxious, isolated or alone
and for you to help us to work together to meet their needs.
Help us all to make wise decisions and take sensible precautions so that people stay well and we get through this quickly.
Lord, look down with mercy, guard us and guide us, and heal our world.