Coronavirus


Keep well, keep praying, keep connected

Latest update: 26 March 2020

We know there are a number of other issues that arise from this guidance, and that things are likely to continue to change in the UK over the coming days and weeks – be assured that we’re working on this and we’ll stay in touch with you. In all of this, we have three key aims: 

  • Keeping people well 
  • keeping people praying 
  • Keeping people connected

Please make sure that you keep an eye on the Church of England website for all the latest guidance for churches and parishes relating to Coronavirus - and if you have specific queries you need help with, or you're in need of support, please speak with your Archdeacon in the first instance. 

If you'd like to receive the latest updates from the Diocese on this issue, there's a special mailing list you can sign up to here (but, of course, we'll continue to highlight any key information in the weekly Briefing mailing). 

Some of the guidance below has been given by our Diocesan Registrar in response to questions that have arisen - that advice is clearly signposted. With respect to this advice, please note the following from our Registrar:

The principal source of up-to-date information about how the Church of England is dealing with a range of issues is the Coronavirus (COVID-19) section of the Church of England website, which should be checked regularly.

The purpose of this note is to offer guidance to colleagues on a range of matters which have been raised with Ann Beswick, my Registry Clerk, or with me, or with colleagues providing legal advice to other Dioceses. It is not intended to provide detailed legal advice, which normally depends on the particular facts of individual cases. Nevertheless, I hope that it is helpful.

During these difficult times, both Ann and I are working remotely and can be contacted in the usual way (ocj@wslaw.co.uk or 020 7593 5034 for me and for Ann abeswick@wslaw.co.uk or 020 7593 5148). This may mean we cannot easily access some of our paper records but we will do our best to provide normal service!

Owen Carew-Jones
Registrar and Bishop’s Legal Secretary

Click the heading or questions below to jump straight to what you need:  

Should churches be closed?

Worship & Prayer

Safeguarding & Coronavirus

Occasional offices

PCCs & APCMs

Church Buildings & Property

Pastoral Care

Managing clergy vacancies & appointments during Coronavirus

Key workers

Diocesan staff & parish support

Parish & diocesan finance

Canterbury Cathedral 

Prayer for those affected by the Coronavirus outbreak


Should churches be closed? 

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 23 March 2020, it is imperative that for the health of the nation and in order for the National Health Service itself to manage the increase in those requiring medical help, the Church of England strictly observes the new guidelines on staying at home and only making journeys that are absolutely necessary - such as shopping for essential items and to take daily exercise.

Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own. A notice explaining this should be put on the church door (find a template poster here). We must take a lead in showing our communities how we must behave in order to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus.

We must also do all that we can to provide resources and support for those who are isolated, fearful and vulnerable. But we have to do this from our homes. A number of national online resources (https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online) including weekly streamed services and daily audio, as well as additional worship provision on the BBC are there to help us, and more are on their way. Please do all that you can to point people to this content.

It is also imperative that as the Church of Jesus Christ, called to offer hope and light in the darkness of this world’s ills, we maintain a praying presence for our community, though from today onwards this must happen from our hearts and from our homes.

Our Church buildings are closed but the Church must continue to support and encourage our communities making use of telephones and other forms of technology to keep in touch with people and ensure pastoral care is maintained, and as shepherds of Christ’s flock we are committed to making this happen.

In summary, these are the guidelines we must all now follow:

  1. Our church buildings are closed for public worship and for private prayer
  2. Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible
  3. There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice
  4. Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way
  5. Live streaming of services is more important than ever and is still permissible from homes. We encourage us all to consider how we can be as creative as possible with streaming services and other resources. There are many, many fantastic examples of churches and clergy using technology to reach and engage communities. Read more guidance here
  6. Foodbanks should continue where possible under strict guidelines and may have to move to be delivery points not places where people gather. If you can do consider making a financial contribution to your nearest foodbank - the Spareable app offers an easy way to help your local foodbank without ever leaving your home

Worship & Prayer During Coronavirus

We want to live stream worship and prayer - can we use copyrighted material? 

From our Registrar:

  • In seeking to provide for the continuing spiritual life of a parish, a wide range of approaches to offering prayer and worship are being used and considered. Parishes should not rely on the exceptional nature of the present situation to seek to justify falling foul of copyright laws. Some copyright owners may be less understanding than others.
  • The law of copyright is a complicated and specialist area. However, a useful basic summary of guidance is available on the coronavirus advice and resource page of the Church of England website. Further more detailed advice is available here.

Access more worship and prayer resources and guidance here

What about Holy Week?

If you're wondering how the Church of England is adapting plans for Holy Week and into Easter to meet the challenges of Coronavirus, you can check out this blog to find out

We know that many will have been disappointed by the cancellation of this year's Chrism Mass - and that the opportunity to reaffirm ministerial vows is precious for many of us as part of our observance of Holy Week. Because of this, we are planning to arrange an online service for the reaffirmation of ministerial vows at 11am on Maundy Thursday (9 April) via our Youtube Channel

The team is working on the logistics of this now and we hope to be able to share the details with you on Friday 3 April. 

Safeguarding & Coronavirus

Resources: 

The National Team has also taken the decision that the completion of the Past Cases Review 2 by dioceses, cathedrals, TEIs, religious communities and all other church settings will now be expected during Spring/ Summer 2021.

If you have any safeguarding concerns or queries, please don't hesitate to contact a member of our Safeguarding Team

Occasional Offices 

  • There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice
  • Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and social distancing as far as possible
  • Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way

Weddings

A couple’s wedding can no longer take place. What do we do?

Once we have permission for weddings to take place in church again, it would be good to liaise with the couple about a new date. We recommend that the cost does not change. It is likely that any banns already called will have lapsed (they are valid for three months from the final calling, or the final calling of the earlier set if more that one set have been required). If this is the case, there may time to call new banns, in which case do not charge for these; otherwise, the couple may need to apply for a common licence and we recommend refunding the banns fee.

Can we publish banns as part of a live-streamed service which is not public worship?

From our Registrar:

  • No. Such purported publication would be invalid, and would bring into question the legal status of any marriage erroneously solemnised in reliance on it.
  • Section 7 of the Marriage Act 1949 requires that banns of matrimony must be published on three Sundays preceding the solemnization of the marriage at the “principal service”. (The ‘principal service’ is defined as the service at which the person publishing the banns considers the greatest number of persons who habitually attend public worship are likely to attend.)
  • The principal service must be a formal service, i.e. an act of public worship according to a form of service authorised or allowed by Canon. If there is no such service, banns cannot be validly published.

Can we affix a notice publishing banns to the church door?

From our Registrar:

  • No. Banns must be published at the principal service and there is no legal basis for any other form of publication

Can we publish banns by displaying a notice on the parish website – far more people will be made aware of the proposed marriage than would have heard the banns in church?

From our Registrar:

  • No – for the reasons given above.

What about other ecclesiastical preliminaries relating to weddings?

From our Registrar:

  • HM Government’s advice as at the date of this note is clear: churches are closed and therefore there cannot be any marriage services and banns cannot be published for the time being. This will continue until the current regime is relaxed. At that point, some couples may want to get married quickly, and clergy need to be prepared for this
  • If a couple wishes to proceed quickly once the regime is relaxed, a common licence would normally provide the simplest alternative way forward, though there may be circumstances in which an Archbishop’s special licence would be appropriate. Advice is available from surrogates and the Diocesan Registry, and will depend on the particular facts of each specific case. A Superintendent Registrar’s Certificate (SRC) may also provide an alternative form of preliminary, although the statutory 28 day notice period means that this is never going to be a quick solution; in addition, an SRC may not be available where a Qualifying Connection is being relied upon.

Can’t the Bishop (or the Registrar or the vicar or someone else) simply extend the period of validity of the banns (or the common licence)?

From our Registrar:

  • No. Unfortunately, there is no legal power to do that.

Should we waive Common Licence fees?

From our Registrar:

  • As a gesture of goodwill to those couples who have been or will be unable to have banns called in time and who will therefore need to obtain a common licence, the Chancellor has agreed to reduce the statutory fee from £200 to £100 for those affected by the period of closure of churches for public worship. Of this £100 fee, £74 is payable to the Diocesan Registry and £26 is payable to the Surrogate. If fees have already been paid to the parish for calling banns, the parish may consider it appropriate to refund those fees.
  • Where a couple would have required a common licence in any event (because banns could not be called due to the circumstances of the couple) or where banns will be able to be called once churches are open again for public worship, the normal statutory fee will apply.

How can we establish a Qualifying Connection for couples wishing to get married?

From our Registrar:

  • Where a couple is in the process of establishing a qualifying connection in order to be able to be married in a particular church (either by banns or by common licence), but the present restrictions on public worship prevent them from completing that process, it will be a matter for the informed judgement of the local clergy, considering the particular circumstances of each case, as to whether the requirement is met.
  • The Church of England Marriage Measure (‘CEMM’) provides that a qualifying connection is established where a person has “at any time habitually attended public worship in that parish for a period of not less than six months”. The suspension of public worship may interrupt a couple’s attempt to attend worship over such a period. The legislation does provide for this eventuality but, nevertheless, the couple’s attendance must still demonstrate a degree of habit and regularity, and it must be measured over a period of not less than six months (and therefore cannot be anticipated).
  • The House of Bishops’ Guidance on the CEMM indicates that “the minister should regard the test as satisfied if ….
    - the person concerned has worshipped in the parish over a period of years and regularly attended worship at least three times a year at the same festivals/occasions (e.g. Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, Harvest Festival , Remembrance Sunday), unless he or she was prevented from doing so by e.g. illness; or
    - the person concerned has worshipped in the parish for a shorter period, but for 6 months or more, and has attended regularly at least once a month unless prevented by illness etc.”
  • The current Coronavirus crisis can reasonably be interpreted as a circumstance within  the “etc” provision. If the couple has demonstrated a genuine commitment and intention to attend public worship and has indicated that they will attend regularly for at least six months, and has actually attended public worship regularly for at least a part of that period, but has been prevented from being able to do so in the remainder of the six-month period as a result of the restrictions on public worship, it would be reasonable for the minister to consider the qualifying connection to have been established. It will be for the minister to decide, taking account of all of the circumstances (e.g. the number of times attended, over what period, the pattern or regularity of that attendance, what the couple have said about their intentions and whether they lived up to what they said). The decision is for the minister alone to take provided that they have regard to all of the guidance (the House of Bishops’ Guidance and these comments here).
  • If the six month period has been interrupted by closure of the church for public worship, that period prior to closure can be added to any period after closure to amount to a six month period overall.

Pastoral Care

Can we continue to take home communion or do home visits?

With the current restrictions on movement, all pastoral care should be done by phone or social media. There may be cases, in extremis, where a visit may need to be undertaken, for example to minister to a dying parishioner (NB sadly, this is not permitted for those suffering from Covid-19). Visits to those who are self-isolating because they have symptoms of Covid-19 or have been in contact with someone who has, or are in ‘shielding’ cannot be visited until their period of isolation is over. Any visit that does take place must follow rigorous health and hygiene practices and maintain social distancing.

How is the church caring for people's mental health during the crisis?

The Church of England has produced this guidance on mental health and wellbeing during Coronavirus - and more resources are in development. 

I'm worried and stressed - where can I get support? 

The Living Well has had to close to guests at Nonington – but they are open for listening, prayer and support by phone and email so don't hesitate to contact us them if you need some help:

You can also email requests to their weekly prayer support team: 
prayer@the-living.well.org.uk
 
The team plans some interior redecoration at The Living Well and to reset the Labyrinth, so be re-assured that they will reopen with a flourish at some point later in the year. 

Managing clergy vacancies & appointments

Our parish is in interregnum. Will the recruitment process continue?

The Bishop’s Senior Staff Team has decided that, wherever possible, we will continue with recruitment processes. We will be as creative as possible, for example, using video conferencing for panel meetings and for interviews. We may have to be flexible with dates and timeframes and any offers of post might have to be conditional until we can eventually have a face-to-face meeting. In some cases, we might have to pause recruitment because of local circumstances.

Our new priest is due to move soon. What will happen about them starting in role?

At present, most removals have now been halted. Arrangements are being made nationally to ensure no clergy are left unpaid ‘between jobs’. When the current crisis is over, moves and licensings will be rearranged as quickly as possible. There may be a few cases where someone has moved but their licensing service cannot now take place. The licensing itself can take place by video conferencing but the installation and welcome service will take place as soon as possible after the lifting of restrictions.

Can we use 'stand-in clergy' where our usual clergy are not available or during an interregnum?

From our Registrar:

  • In the event that a need arises for support from clergy who are not licensed to the parish or do not have the Bishop’s permission to officiate, parishes should remember that only clergy who are currently beneficed, licensed or hold permission to officiate in a diocese of the Church of England may exercise ministry, even on an occasional or short term basis.

What about this summer's Ordinations? 

We don't imagine that it will be any surprise to you that due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we have unfortunately had to postpone this summer's Ordination services. These will now take place on the afternoons of 26 September (for the ordination of Priests) and 27 September (for the ordination of Deacons)  in Canterbury Cathedral. However, our ordination candidates will still begin their curacies this summer as planned, wherever that is possible. 

We understand that this will be a source of disappointment to our ordinands, who are looking forward to their big day - but we will make sure it's a party worth waiting for!

Key workers

I’m a member of the clergy/a parish administrator. That means I’m a Key Worker, doesn’t it?

‘Religious staff’ are indeed categorised as key workers. However, this is a catch-all phrase to be carried across all faiths. For the Church of England, it is primarily intended for those undertaking funeral ministry and critical pastoral care. If you wish to use key worker status, for example for continuing to send your child to school, you’ll need to apply through your archdeacon for the Bishop to certify that status.

PCCs & APCMs

We would encourage you to postpone all non-essential meetings and - where necessary - to seek to transact business by email or video conferencing (such as Skype). 

Bishop Rose has signed this Stautory Instrument, which extends the time period for holding APCMs to 31 October 2020. It also extends the time for holding a meeting of parishioners to choose churchwardens in the year 2020 to not later than 31 October 2020 (see more guidance below)

What about our APCM?

From our Registrar:

  • Following changes that came into force on 1 January 2020, the Churchwardens Measure 2001 requires an annual meeting of parishioners to be held not later than 31st May each year.
  • In the present exceptional circumstances, the Bishop has exercised her powers under Section 10 of the Churchwardens Measure so that the date by which an annual meeting must take place is postponed to 31st October 2020.
  • In the present exceptional circumstances, and where no APCM has been held this year, the Bishop has exercised her powers under Rule 78 so that the date by which an annual parochial church meeting must take place is postponed to 31st October 2020. This means that the date by which all the business required to be dealt with at that meeting (including the election of parochial representatives of the laity to the PCC (“directly elected PCC members”) and to the deanery synod (“directly elected deanery synod members”)) is extended to that date.

Can our APCM be held ‘virtually’ (by email, phone or video call)?

From our Registrar:

  • No. There is no provision in the Churchwardens Measure for the annual meeting of parishioners to be held in this way. This is not simply about the lack of a legal basis for an alternative to an annual meeting, but also about the lack of any procedure or other arrangements to ensure that a proper process is followed.

What about Churchwarden elections? 

From our Registrar: 

  • The Bishop has also directed that a churchwarden chosen in 2019 (and duly admitted to office) will continue to hold office until 31st January 2021, unless his or her successor is admitted to office before that date. Where the successor is admitted to office sooner, the outgoing churchwarden will cease to hold office on the date of admission of the successor.
  • If a churchwarden is serving a sixth successive period of office, that sixth successive period is extended so that the disqualification under Section 3 of the Churchwardens Measure (disqualification after six periods of office) will arise only at the end of that extended period, i.e. on or before 31st January 2021.
  • The continuation in office of a churchwarden is subject to the statutory provisions as to the suspension, resignation and vacation of office of churchwardens, and so these provisions will continue to apply in full. A churchwarden who, for whatever reason, does not wish to continue in office, may still resign pursuant to Section 7 of the Churchwardens Measure. If a successor has already been elected by an annual meeting, that person may be admitted to office by the archdeacon (or alternative arrangements may be made if that is not possible; please contact the Registrar). Otherwise, a special meeting would have to be convened to elect or appoint a successor, which will not be possible in the current circumstances.

Can our churchwardens be elected ‘electronically’ (for example, by email)?

From our Registrar:

  • No. There is no provision in the Churchwardens Measure for the election of churchwardens to be conducted in this way. This is not simply about the lack of a legal basis for an alternative to an annual meeting, but also about the lack of any procedure or other arrangements to ensure that a proper process is followed.

What about elections for PCC members?

From our Registrar:

  • The Bishop has also directed that a person who was a directly elected PCC member in March 2020, and whose term of office was due to expire at the conclusion of the APCM this year, will continue to hold office until the end of the deferred APCM (i.e. a date not later than 31st October 2020).
  • Where a parish has already held its APCM for 2020, the newly directly elected PCC members will have already taken up office.

What about elections for Deanery Synod representatives?

From our Registrar:

  • The Bishop has directed that the term of office of directly elected deanery synod members holding office in March 2020 will continue to hold office until 30th November 2020. As such, they will also continue to be members of the PCC until that date.
  • All directly elected deanery synod members elected at their parish’s 2020 APCM (whether deferred or not) will now take up office on 1st December 2020.
  • The extension of the period of office of directly elected PCC members and deanery synod members is subject to the relevant statutory provisions as to their suspension, disqualification and vacation of office, and so those provisions will continue to apply in full. A PCC member or deanery synod member who, for whatever reason, does not wish to continue in office, may still resign and the usual rules for filling a vacancy apply.

What about our PCC meetings?

From our Registrar:

  • Whilst the new Church Representation Rules (“the CRRs”) make provision for an APCM or special parochial church meeting to make a scheme to vary (within certain limitations) the application of the CRRs in the parish, no such schemes have yet been submitted to the Bishop’s Council. Accordingly, the Model Rules, set out in Part 9 of the CRRs, apply in all parishes of the Diocese.

Can we hold our PCC meetings 'virtually' (by email, phone or video call?

From our Registrar:

  • There is no general provision permitting ‘virtual’ meetings. However, if all the other procedural requirements for a meeting are met, and the PCC wished to proceed in this way, it seems to me that a video-conference meeting could take place, as long as every member wishing to attend the meeting is able, and has the facility, to do so (which may or may not be the case). It would be a fundamental pre-requisite of any such meeting that all the members attending could both hear and see each other. A telephone or other audio link would not be sufficient. (This is going further than is envisaged in the CRRs but is based on the legal understanding of what constitutes a meeting. It is important to note that if a member wishes to attend, but does not have the facility to do so by videoconference, that member is entitled to attend the meeting in person, which is likely to be problematical for the foreseeable future, and it would be for that reason that a valid meeting could not be convened.)
  • Formal business, however, may also be conducted by correspondence, which now includes by email where a person has provided an email address. See CRRs Rule 76 and Model Rules M29. Rule M29 provides that “unless objection to the proposals is received from members in such numbers and within such period from the date of their being sent as the chair of the PCC may specify, the proposals are to be treated at the end of that period as approved by the PCC as if they had been approved at a duly convened meeting”. No contentious business should be dealt with in this way.
  • It should also be remembered that the Standing Committee of the PCC may transact the PCC’s business between meetings, subject to the statutory limitations and any directions of the PCC. See CRRs Model Rule M31. The comments above relating to video-conference meetings apply similarly to the Standing Committee.
  • These are, of course, the provisions for formal meetings and business. There is nothing to prevent email and telephone interaction between members of the PCC to give informal consideration to matters. It may be possible to deal with many straightforward and uncontroversial matters in this way. However, formal decisions would need to await a properly constituted meeting of the PCC or, as appropriate, the Standing Committee.

Do we still have to submit our accounts & annual report to the Charity Commission?

From our Registrar:

  • PCCs required to submit accounts and an annual return to the Charity Commission should note that the Commission’s current advice is that the charity should contact the Commission if it believes that it will need an extension to the (10 month) deadline for filing the annual return. Given the number of charities likely to be affected, it may be helpful for a member of the PCC to check the Charity Commission website from time to time, in order to check for any further guidance.

Church Buildings & Property

We have some work on our church building which is meant to be taking place soon. Can that still go ahead?

There is no simple answer to this question – it depends on who would be doing the work, what the work is as well as current Government guidelines. Please discuss each case with your archdeacon.

The church building is now closed for the crisis. Does that have any implications for our insurance?

It is often a condition of insurance that where buildings are not being used, they should be regularly inspected – preferably weekly. A suggestion is that someone could inspect the church as part of taking their exercise walk. Ecclesiastical Insurance have more information on this here. Those who are insured with Trinitas should contact them for advice. If your church is insured with another provider, please contact them.

Can we cut our churchyard grass?

The Government’s guidance is clear that people should only leave their homes for essential purposes. Regrettably, this does not include maintaining churchyards. The only exception to this would be to enable safe access to a grave or Garden of Remembrance for a burial or interment. Such work should be kept to the minimum required.

Can we hire out our hall or allow others to use our premises?

From our Registrar:

  • Where a PCC has a church hall which is used by other groups, it should consider whether it would be appropriate for it to take steps to support HM Government’s guidance on social distancing.
  • Where a lease or licence is in place, this will regulate the formal relationship between the parties, and care should be taken not to act in a way which may be considered to be a breach by the PCC of the terms of the lease or licence.
  • Where there is no such agreement, the PCC should take such action (which may include closing the hall for use in certain circumstances and in light of the clear advice of the Government) as appears to it to be appropriate. The PCC should adopt a consistent approach to all users.
  • A PCC will wish to be mindful of the fact that in the local community, many may not distinguish between the PCC as the ‘owner’ of a property and other groups as users, and so the behaviour of users is rightly a matter of concern to the PCC.

What about notices for faculties?

From our Registrar:

  • It is a statutory requirement that public notice be given, in a specified form, in relation to most petitions for faculty. Public notices must normally be displayed both inside and outside the relevant church or churches.
  • In view of the restriction on public worship and the closure of church buildings, the display of public notices will no longer achieve the intended degree of publicity for the proposals contained in the petition.
  • Where a parish wishes to petition for a faculty at this exceptional time, the petitioners are invited to consider in what other ways, in addition to the statutory notices which must still be displayed inside and outside the church, publicity may be given to the proposals. Such publicity might take the form of a copy of the public notice on a village noticeboard or on a parish website.
  • Whilst it will be a matter for the Commissary General to determine on the merits of each case, this is intended to assist parishes in being able to secure a faculty for non-contentious matters without delay, even where there is no public access to the church.
  • In an emergency situation, it will remain possible for an interim faculty to be obtained. Parishes should approach Edmund Harris, the DAC Secretary and the Archdeacon for advice in the first instance, as usual.

Can I still get support from the DAC? 

 

DAC meetings have been suspended until further notice and any vital business will be transacted by e-mail. Apart from some cases already being processed where decisions can be taken and communicated easily, the work of the DAC will be on an emergency-only basis.

As site visits are not now possible, all discussion of new development projects and non-essential repair work will be placed on hold until further notice. Most - if not all - cases which do require a decision will be handled by the Standing Committee with appropriate expert advice. 

The Registry is still functioning but at a reduced level, since its staff are now working from home. Therefore, only urgent casework can be dealt with, such as temporary works following an emergency. All quinquennial inspections that have fallen due should be postponed until further notice.

However, the DAC team remains committed to providing parishes with all the support and advice that they need to keep their buildings in good shape and fit for purpose. They will add all incoming queries to a waiting list for processing when all the restrictions have been removed and normal service can resume.If you have any queries, please contact Edmund Harris.

Diocesan Staff & Parish Support

We have taken the decision to close Diocesan House from this afternoon (24 March, 2020) and all Diocesan Staff have been enabled to work from home. However, the Diocesan staff team remains committed to supporting you as you our frontline workers during this national crisis - and (as long as they remain well) will continue to be available to you by phone and email, whether they do it from an office or their kitchen table. If you have any queries, please don't hesitate to call Diocesan House on 01227 459401 - we will continue to run a switchboard service from this number. 

Parish & Diocesan Finances

We have received a number of questions from church officers concerned about their church’s financial situation given the radical actions being taken by our government to curtail the further spread of the Coronavirus and to protect those most vulnerable in our communities.

In particular we are aware of the concerns about the suspension of public worship in our churches and the cancellation of church based events and the impact all this will have on parish finances. Understandably we expect parish income to be reduced and, as this is unlikely to be matched by similar reductions in church expenditure, we understand that there will be a negative impact on parish finances.

We have asked the National Church for financial assistance during these exceptional times and they are working out what might be possible, so we are unable to be more specific about what that mean for Canterbury Diocese until we have a formal response from them - please bear with us. 

As Archbishop Justin said earlier this week, the Church of England is not closing down – but Church is changing. This has to be so if the Church of England is to continue to be the Church for England - our ministry is now needed more than ever in so many different ways.

People are confused, vulnerable, losing jobs, insecure, fearful, unwell, dying and asking a great deal of questions. We must make sure our front line ministers are able to be there for those most in need, freed from uncertainties about their own situation. But it is Parish Share that provides the means by which these ministers are resourced. They also need to be sure of the support of our diocesan officers when they turn to them - as they are now doing increasingly - to help them to offer support to their communities. Our Diocesan House is endeavouring to stay open as long as it is possible and permitted to do so, but even if it has to close , our staff will continue to resource parish ministry however we can through remote working.

It is tempting at the times of reducing church income to simply stop or reduce the payment of Parish Share, but Canterbury Diocese does not have the funds and reserves to support our ministry if there are wholesale reductions in Parish Share payments.

So can we encourage all churches to please ensure that they continue to pay as much Parish Share as they are able, within the constraints of their own reduced income? We are making every effort to reduce our non-essential costs as far as possible. We hope that if we all seek to work together in faith and generosity we can support all those on our front line ministry to bring the hope of the gospel of Christ into a hugely challenging national and international situation.

To make you aware of what we are doing at a diocesan level to manage this challenging financial situation:

 

  • We are in regular conversation with the Church Commissioners, who have agreed to offer us a loan to cover stipends for the coming period. We will also be exploring what other options there may be for support from the National Church. 
  • We are also seeking to make use of the Government's recently-announced Job Retention Scheme, allowing staff to effectively take extended time off work but continue to receive their salary, heavily subsided by the Government - thus saving some of our budgeted spend. This may be something that can be explored locally with church employees. We are seeking to do this in a way which does not impede essential support for parish ministry - please be assured that the team remains here to help you. 

Resources: 

Canterbury Cathedral

Prayer for those affected by Coronavirus

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
be with those who care for the sick,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may find comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen

Find more prayer and worship resources here