Dear Sisters and Brothers
I attach for your attention a letter (or download it here) from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. This points you to new and important guidance relating to the administration of Holy Communion, the sharing of The Peace and other acts of ministry.
This new guidance is prompted by:
- The developing public health situation (among those advising the Church of England is the Revd Professor Gina Radford, formerly the Government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer);
- Our responsibility towards those who may be most at risk of infection;
- The desirability of consistency of practice across the church.
While there may be a few situations where ministers need to exercise judgement in the application of this guidance, it should be noted that this is guidance to which we should all have ‘due regard’ – in other words, we need to have a good reason for not abiding by it.
If in doubt, please be in touch with my office at Bishopscourt.
There is likely to be further advice in due course (e.g. about funerals where a person’s family are all self-isolating), and planning is in place in expectation of any significant increases in deaths.
Where necessary, there will also be guidance about Confirmation and Ordination Services.
At present there is no guidance suggesting that we should discontinue public worship or other gatherings or close our schools.
The exception to that would be if there was a case of actual infection in a particular community.
At Diocesan Synod last Saturday, I drew particular attention to the importance of our care towards those who may be the most at risk, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Please be particularly alert to those in our communities who may themselves decide not to attend worship or other gatherings, and take steps to make sure that they have all that they need for their wellbeing.
And please do all that you can to make sure that those people are not exposed to the risk of infection.
I am conscious also that there will be those among our clergy, lay ministers and pastoral volunteers who are themselves more at risk due to their own age or medical circumstances.
Please do not place yourselves at risk and, if you need advice, please be in touch with Bishopscourt.
While we do need to be proportionate in our response to the present situation, we also need to take proper care and indeed to take a lead and set an example of good practice within our communities.
Please be alert to the very simple guidance about frequent hand-washing and ‘social distancing’; also keep alert to further advice on the Church of Englandand diocesan website.
Please hold especially in your care and your prayers those who may be the most at risk of harm in our own different settings and more widely.
With my thanks for your attention to this and the assurance of my prayers.
The Rt Revd James Langstaff
Lord Bishop of Rochester and Bishop to HM Prisons