Bishop James shares message on the reopening of churches

Bishop James has shared a message of encouragement and reassurance with the Diocese (Wednesday 10 June), following recent announcements from Government and the Church of England, allowing churches to reopen for supervised private prayer, and small funerals from 15 June.

"I continue to be hugely grateful for all the work being done by clergy and lay people across our parishes, chaplaincies and other settings. 

"Through your efforts, worship, prayer and teaching is being offered online and in other ways; pastoral care is being given, not least to the sick, dying and bereaved; communities are being served and hope maintained. 

He continues:

"Whatever some national commentators might sometimes say, what is being done locally demonstrates very clearly indeed that, while the doors of most of our church and hall buildings have been closed, the church is not closed

In the letter, Bishop James, recognises the difficult lines to be navigated as life begins to reopen up across the country:

"And now, as recent government decisions indicate, we are approaching a time when our buildings may re-open in limited ways.  This is not necessarily going to be easy because each situation will be different, there will be inconsistencies and everything must be done safely and according to the various guidelines.  

"There is some thought that government advisers are very anxious about places of worship having the potential to become epicentres of new infection as they re-open.  I am conscious too that this next stage comes just when a lot of us are experiencing a degree of fatigue after nearly three months of lock-down."

You can read Bishop James' letter in full here

The Bishop's letter follows a series of announcements made over recent days from both Government and the Church of England, regarding the possibility for churches to reopen for a few specific reasons.

On 6 June, the Government announced that church buildings could reopen for individual private prayer. On the 9 June, the House of Bishop's shared guidance allowing for small funerals also to take place in churches.

In a statement supporting the new guidance, the House of Bishop's stated that the guidance 'is permissive rather than perscriptive' and there is no pressure on any church to open.

Further clarification is being sought from the Government as to what the extent and nature of supervision for private individual prayer will be. However, in preparation, the Church of England has issued a series of planning and guidance documents to help churches prepare for reopening.

Recent areas of advice include: private prayer, funerals, weddings, baptisms, Holy Communion, and ordinations.

All the latest material  can be found on the Church of England's Covid-19 page


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