"Very limited access" to church buildings

The Acting Bishop of Chester and the archdeacons have written to clergy giving permission for parishes in the Diocese of Chester to allow very limited access to church buildings if they so wish. 

This follows on from a House of Bishops' statement earlier in the week which paved the way for a gradual re-opening of church buildings on a phased basis.

The bishop and the archdeacons' letter is replicated in full below: 

07 May 2020

Dear Friends,

We wrote to you yesterday following the House of Bishops’ statement of 05 May, which paved the way for a gradual re-opening of our church buildings on a phased basis. In our letter, we said that we would write again once more detailed guidance from the national church was to hand.

More detailed guidance on ‘Access to church buildings during lockdown: advice for incumbents’ has now been produced, and has been posted today on the Church of England website.

We are therefore now able to give permission for parishes in this diocese to move to the initial immediate phase of accessing church buildings, should they so wish.

This means that very limited access to church buildings is now possible for activities such as pre-recording or streaming of services or private prayer, by ministers in their own parishes, so long as the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are taken.

Please note that in each parish there should be only one person appointed for this purpose, although they may be accompanied by others from their own household. You will see that the guidance note says that ‘multiple people are strongly discouraged from accessing the space, even if this is done one at a time.’ The one appointed person may be the incumbent or another licensed or authorised minister, or a minister with permission to officiate, or a churchwarden or another member of the PCC.

Please take careful note, and follow, the national guidance note, referred to above. This explains very clearly how re-entering church buildings is to be handled in practice, for everyone’s safety.

Please note that church buildings remain closed to the public. When a minister is in the church building to pray or pre-record or live-stream worship, the doors should remain locked. The guidance still excludes the possibility of church services, including occasional offices such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.

Ministers should not feel under pressure to go back into church for these purposes if it is not appropriate: for example if they are self-isolating, or shielding. If ministers are content with leading worship from home for the time being, having made arrangements to do that, they should not feel under any obligation to switch back to church at this stage. If you do decide to re-enter the church building, please do not feel under pressure to rush to do this. You should study the guidance carefully first.

As the national guidance note says, it will be updated as necessary, and further guidance on related issues will be issued shortly. We will continue to draw new guidance to your attention.

We hope that this marks the first stage of a gradual, and safe, return to using the church buildings which we and our communities love as sacred spaces dedicated to the glory of God. Please be assured of our prayers now and in the weeks ahead.
Bishop Keith
Archdeacon Ian
Archdeacon Mike

Page last updated: Thursday 7th May 2020 8:13 PM
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