Practical matters

Updated 1 June 2020: Latest furlough guidance and bell-ringing update.

On this page you will find answers to some of the more practical questions related to the Diocese of Bath and Wells as a result of the suspension of public worship and closure of our church buildings during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. We will update these page as soon as the information becomes available.

The Church of England is regularly updating its Coronavirus (Covid-19) Guidance page on its website, so do also check that regularly for updates.

Throughout these changing times we are sending out a weekly, short Connect newsletter to keep people up to date with the latest guidance. Sign up to receive it on our Newsletters page.

Weddings, funerals and baptisms

What support is available to ensure we can provide the best support for funerals and the bereaved at this time? 28 April 2020
The Church of England Evangelism and Discipleship team are hosting a series of webinars on funerals and bereavement. Visit the events calendar to see the range of on-line courses available.

You may also find this video from the Church of England, with Revd Kate Bottley helpful to share.

Can you tell me what the latest guidance is for funerals and funeral fees? 20 April 2020
As church buildings are now closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, funerals are taking place at either the graveside or at Crematoria.  Other measures in place regarding social distancing and gatherings also mean that the number of people in attendance at these funerals is very limited.  We are aware that this raises questions about whether fees for funerals could be reduced or waived in recognition of the limits currently placed on funerals.

In usual circumstances clergy are expected to consult Archdeacons over the reducing or waiving of DBF attributable fees.  However, as these are not normal circumstances, the incumbent is able to use his/her discretion when deciding whether fees should be reduced or waived for pastoral reasons.  This applies to the whole of the cremation fee, whereas the PCC would need to be in agreement to waive the PCC element of the graveside fee of £305*.  For parishes in vacancy please consult with the Area Dean regarding pastoral issues and waiving of fees.

When considering if the fee should be waived or reduced, please remember to consider cases if the services are conducted by a Retired Minister or stipendiary minister from another parish and the impact financially on them.

Where funerals are taking place, the incumbent could levy the normal fee, but then offer a Memorial or Thanksgiving service when the lockdown is lifted, which in accordance with the Bishops Guidelines has no statutory fees attached to them.

Should you have further queries regarding funerals and applicable fees, please contact Janine Lavery who will be happy to help.

* The parochial fee for a graveside funeral is: £413 which includes the burial of the body (£108 DBF and £305 PCC), for a graveside committal £347 which includes the burial of the body (£42 DBF and £305 PCC) and £199 at the crematorium (£169 DBF and £30 PCC).

The Church of England has added more guidance and resources to their  to their Funeral Resources page. As well as general guidance, there are outline orders of service, a reflection for mourners at home and more.

What is the current guidance on weddings and baptisms?
The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England have urged everyone to follow the government’s instructions to stay at home homes in a national effort to limit the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19). This means our churches will be closed and weddings and baptisms cannot take place.


What is happening with training?

All diocesan face to face training events have been cancelled, but we are keeping the events calendar on the website up to date with on-line training opportunities from the diocese, the Church of England central teams and other organisations. Please email Jane Chamberlain with additional suggestions or offers to host groups to share wisdom on particular topics.

View a list of available courses on our calendar.

Live streaming services

What's the latest guidance on live streaming of services?
The Church of England has said is more important than ever and is permissible from homes.

The Church of England has issued guidance in preparation for the re-opening of churches for clergy prayer/streaming in church buildings. Find it on the Church of England Coronavirus pages. You can also download the latest advice on the Caring for and Securing our Church Buildings page.

Please also note the guidance available on the safeguarding on this page in relation to streaming.

A Church Near You

There is a ‘Live stream’ tag on A Church Near You, which churches can add to a service. Any service, whether streamed live or pre-recorded and then made available at a specific time for viewers to watch, should have the ‘live stream’ tag. This will ensure that your service is visible in the national search page that the public are being directed to:

Adding live streamed services and events is done in just the same way as you would normally add a service or event to your ACNY page. We have provided specific guidance for adding live streamed services to your ACNY page on the Editor Help Centre.

Where do we stand on music licensing?
Those wishing to live-stream via platforms such as Facebook and YouTube should be covered by the existing licensing agreements in place with those platforms. Please ensure you follow the terms of use and copyright requirements of each respective platform.

If a church wishes to host a live-stream on their own website then they can apply for a Limited Online Music Licence (LOML).

Working with St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Royal School of Church Music, the Church of England has released rights-free music for use on streamed services. They are releasing up to five hymns each week, which are available for free from the A Church Near You Resource Hub every Thursday evening during the coronavirus pandemic.

Churches who wish to use this music as part of services via YouTube, Facebook, Zoom or other platforms must hold a CCLI Licence (which most churches already do) and add the streaming option to it. Read more here on how to do this and purchase that license on the CCLI website.

Parish Administration and Finance

What's happening about APCMs

For 2020, the time for holding a meeting of parishioners to choose churchwardens is extended until 31 October (instead of 31 May).  Similarly, the period for holding an annual meeting of parishioners (APCM) is extended to 31 October. Bishop Peter has issued an instrument to that effect which can be downloaded below.

What about Parish Share contributions during the current Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic?

“It goes without saying that as a church our first concern is for all of God’s people; those sick, those caring for others and for all those who are finding isolation and a disruption to the rhythm of life unsettling and uncomfortable. We are aware that for some parishes, financial concerns add another layer of anxiety. Together, we can work through the financial challenges for PCCs that this may bring over the coming weeks and months. We want to ensure that PCCs , clergy and diocesan staff can continue to work.  We understand that for some parishes their income streams from plate collections, fundraising events, church hall lettings etc. may decrease significantly due to the social distancing and any other forthcoming national measures. In addition, some members may face their own financial struggles and may have to reduce their planned giving.  diocesan staff are there to support you, so please do get in touch if you need us.

“If any parish has specific cash flow problems, and is making parish share payments monthly by direct debit, the direct debit payment can be suspended temporarily to ease the immediate problems. To do this, please contact Jessica Cook. The DBF relies upon parish share contributions to provide the cash income to meet clergy stipends payments monthly so, where possible, we would gratefully ask that these regular payments do continue.

“Most churches receive donations from their members by regular pledged gifts, whether by way of envelopes or standing orders.  These gifts are vital not just for keeping up with parish share contributions (which directly pay for the parochial clergy) but also for all the other ongoing costs of running the building and the ministry and mission of the church. Therefore, we would encourage you to ensure that your members continue with their regular giving for the ministry and mission of the church where they can. You might also encourage those who don’t give in this way to consider doing so, if they are able. By providing your PCC bank account details to your congregation you can give them the opportunity to set up standing orders, or give directly to support not only the existing work of your church but also any new work that you may be undertaking to support your local communities during this very uncertain time.

“The national church is also aware of the financial challenges faced by parishes, and some dioceses and Cathedrals are particularly hard hit. The situation is being discussed to see what support can be offered nationally. We pray for all of those struggling with anxieties at this time, and those who seek to offer support and console them.”

Nick May, Diocesan Secretary

How can I conduct virtual parish meetings?
There are various apps and tools online to help you do this, including Facetime, Skype and Microsoft Teams. Zoom is also used widely and Coventry Diocese have produced a helpful guide on Zoom you can download below.

The Church of England published a Guidance for holding remote meetings FAQ which you can download from their Coronavirus page.

As an employer how do we support our staff?
Information changes daily so please keep referring to the GOV.UK website which will have all the up to date information

Allow your staff to work from home. If they are unable to work from home, the HMRC will reimburse 80 per cent of furloughed workers costs to enable employers to continue paying them a salary. More information can be found via the link above.

Most importantly keep in contact with your staff – these new ways of working can be challenging and lonely. Keep checking in with each other, phone or use online chat tools. Recognising the good work being done can go a long way in helping everyone cope with working from home or being at home.

Email the HR Department should you require further advice.

What's the latest guidance on the Government's furlough scheme? 1 June 2020.
On 29 May 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced changes to the Job Retention Scheme as part of the daily Government briefing. The Scheme will slowly be wound down until the end of October when it will cease in its entirety. The Scheme will now require employers to begin contributing to the wage costs of furloughed employees. Download the latest information sheet from the diocese below.
What is the Government's furlough scheme and what does it mean for parishes? 20 March 2020
On 20th March 2020 the Government announced that it would introducing the “Job Retention Scheme”. The purpose of the Job Retention Scheme is to enable employers to retain staff who are not required to work for the foreseeable future, and who may therefore otherwise be laid off without pay or made redundant.  Under the Scheme, the Government has committed to paying staff 80% of their usual salary, up to £2,500 per month. Download the Furlough Scheme FAQ below for further information.
Has the furlough scheme been extended?
On Friday, 17 March, the government confirmed that the Job Retention Scheme, initially set to last until the end of May, is now to last until the end of June. This means that the scheme now covers a four-month period, from the start of March to the end of June, in which organisations can furlough staff and claim 80 per cent of their wages. Again you will need to decide whether you top up the remaining 20 percent.

The government have also provided further clarity on annual leave for furloughed employees. It confirms that annual leave can be taken at the same time as furlough but must be paid in full (so if you are only paying 80% you must pay the 20% top up for any period of holiday). If employees usually take the bank holiday as leave then organisations will either have to top up pay to usual holiday pay, or give a day off in lieu.

Changes were also made to staff that are eligible to be furloughed. Now, to be eligible, the individual must be PAYE and must have been on the payroll on 19 March 2020 and have been notified to HMRC through a RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020.

Christian Giving and funding

How can people give if we aren't going to church?
The Giving and Funding team have issued some guidance to help during this time. Download the guide below. The Church of England has updated the Parish Resources website with some advice on donations during this time of closure.

The diocese also has more information on how your church can benefit from new fundraising opportunities and receiving donations online on a new On-line Donations page which contains all you need to know to get started using the fundraising partner, easyfundraising.

You can also make a personalised fundraising video using a free video tool from A Church Near You which can be used on your churches page. Find out more about how to make the most of your ACNY page here

Last week (07/05/20) we advertised an online giving webinar offered by the national stewardship team on 12 May. Demand was very high for this and you may have been unable to register as a result. Additional capacity has now been created so we’d encourage you to try again if you’re still interested. You can also register for an additional webinar opportunity on 19 May.

A new page Giving and Funding Latest is being updated regularly with useful information, please do look at it regularly.

What funding is available for churches at this time?

During the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, Gary Marsh, Giving and Funding Adviser will be regularly updating a new Giving and Funding Latest page.

Historic England has launched an Emergency Response Fund .  The grants available will help organisations, voluntary groups and self-employed contractors survive the immediate challenges posed by the pandemic, and to prepare for recovery. Please note the fund cannot be considered for the costs of repairs or restorative works to listed buildings unless such works are already underway and, as a result of COVID-19, project costs have increased beyond any reserves or supplementary funding held. The information is available on the Historic England website. They have also published the results of a recent survey, which has informed the focus of the Emergency Response Fund.

The Giving & Funding Team can provide a list of funders for capital projects and revenue costs, so if your church needs help with these please email Gary Watson, Giving & Funding Adviser or call him on 01749 685270.


What safeguarding advice is available for those setting up community groups to support people during this pandemic? 1 April 2020
The Church of England has published some guidance on their Safeguarding page, including links to government guidance. There are also some diocesan guidance notes available to download below for those setting up community support groups and virtual support groups.
How can we support people who are experiencing domestic abuse?
The Church of England has a dedicated page with advice on how to support people experiencing domestic abuse. It says:

‘Domestic abuse in all its forms is contrary to the will of God and an affront to human dignity. All need to play their part in preventing or halting it.  If you are worried about a friend, family member or neighbour, please contact your Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser. If someone is in immediate danger, call the police on 999. More information is also available in the national safeguarding policy Responding Well to Domestic Abuse.  Do not approach the perpetrator yourself, as this could put you or the victim/survivor at risk.’

For more information and sources of help visit the Church of England Domestic Abuse and Covid-19 page.

How do we use streaming services or virtual groups safely?

There are some diDownload the diocesan guidance notes available for those setting up virtual groups.

There is also some useful guidance on this page on video conferencing on the government’s National Cyber Security Centre website, in particular the links at the bottom of the article about using online meetings with various ages of children.

Schools and young people

My school is still open for key workers’ children. What support can the diocese offer?
Our Schools team is still here to support our schools. Register your school on our Schools Coronvirus page and get details of who is available to help.
What resources are available to help us support bereaved children?
Our schools team has pulled together a selection of useful resources to support children who have been bereaved during this pandemic.
Have you got any resources that can help occupy children and young people?
There are some great resources on the Go Team’s section of the website, including the Bible Chat Mat and the LecDec. More information is available on their Inform newsletter. Pioneer minister Katherine Lyddon is holding a daily collective worship, visit  Katherine’s YouTube channel and tune in daily at 9:30. Movement has taken their worship on line.

Bricks and mortar

How can I care for and secure our church buildings?
Can you help with signage for church closures?
The national church has issue a poster template. A Bath and Wells branded version can be downloaded below.
What is the situation with regard to maintenance of clergy homes?
Please visit the Clergy Housing section on the website where you will find a dedicated page with updates on the latest situation.
What is the latest advice on bell ringing? 1 June 2020
The latest statement from the Central Council for Bell Ringers is available to download below.

Throughout these changing times we are sending out a weekly, short Connect e-bulletin to keep people up to date with the latest guidance and resources. Sign up to receive it on our Newsletters page. You can find all the related news items in a dedicated Coronavirus Guidance and Updates news section.

Photo credit: Thank you to Ilchester Church who sent in this picture of their church complete with a rainbow for children to spot on their rainbow walks during the pandemic.

Who to contact

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