Following a recent announcement that places of worship could reopen for individual private prayer from June 15, the Government has now revised the date in guidance just published to June 13.
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.
New guidance has been published by the government on 12 June which those planning to reopen their church for private prayer should read: Covid-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic
Bishop Ruth and the archdeadons wrote to clergy and lay leaders in the diocese with an update on the latest guidance with regard to the next phase of opening our churches. The letter follows the announcement from the Government at the weekend confirming that churches can open for private prayer from 15 June, and yesterday’s confirmation from the House of Bishops that churches can also hold small funerals from that date.
They say: “We continue to pray for you all and we are hugely appreciative of the sacrifices you have made, particularly recognising the anguish felt by many due to our inability to celebrate the Eucharist. However, we have also been amazed at the extraordinary and creative ways in which you have continued to live and tell the story of God’s love for the world as seen in Jesus.”
The opening will be a “source of joy for many and offers the comfort and strength of the ‘thin places’ our buildings often express to both congregations and the wider community of our villages and towns,” they write.
While the guidance allows churches to reopen for private prayer and hold funerals, it is not a requirement that any church does so from the 15 June. A risk assessment should be undertaken locally, which needs to consider the risks to volunteers, particularly those aged over 70. This risk assessment and all guidance can be downloaded on our Preparing to Open our Buildings page.
“No one should feel impelled in any way to undertake this re-opening,” they say.
Weddings are still not permitted in either registry offices or church buildings. Other worship services and singing are also not permitted.
The letter concludes: “It is important however to always remember that whilst church buildings remain closed, the Church remains fully open and it has been a delight to see the stories of innovative worship, the deepening of prayer and the commitment to service within our communities, churches and schools.”
Download the letter from bishops and archdeacons below.