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
You may also find this video from the Church of England, with Revd Kate Bottley helpful to share.
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.
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.
Live streaming services
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: http://achurchnearyou.com/live-stream
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.
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
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.
“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
The Church of England published a Guidance for holding remote meetings FAQ which you can download from their Coronavirus page.
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.
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
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.
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.
‘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.
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
Bricks and mortar
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.