Coronavirus - Guidance for parishes

From the 4th July, churches have been permitted to reopen for public worship,  providing physical distancing remains in place.

**Rule of 6 -  From Monday 14 September, venues following COVID-19 secure guidelines will be able to continue to host more than 6 people in total - such as religious services in places of worship - but no one should visit in a group of greater than 6. Click here for further detail.

Bishop James and Bishop Simon recognise that every church across the Diocese will be on a different part of the journey to reopening and each parish will make its own decision as to when the time is right and safe for them.

  • Read a message from the bishops here

We have collated material from the Church of England and elsewhere to help churches during this time of pandemic.

Please read through this page, or you can jump to the sections you need using the links below.

Key national guidance to help churches with reopening safely

In order to respond to the gradual easing of restrictions, the Church of England Recovery Task Force is regularly updated their guidance and advice for churches.

All the latest guidance can be found on the Church of England Covid-19 page.

Key documents include:

 

Rule of 6 

Following the Prime Minister's announcement of new ‘rule of six’ restrictions to help limit the spread of coronavirus, the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s recovery group, said:

“I welcome confirmation from the Prime Minister that places of worship can still hold more than six people in total, despite the new restrictions on gatherings, and the reassurance that public worship can continue, ensuring that our churches are there for people in their communities.

“We will continue to work with the Government on specific areas relating to our churches and church-based activities.”

While we await further updates from the Church of England Recovery team, churches may find it help to make themselves familiar with the following updated government advice:

 

If you have any questions about the guidance, you should in the first instance, contact your Archdeacon or Area Dean.

 

Practical resources to help parishes with reopening

There are a number of useful practical resources available to help churches get ready to welcome visitors safely:

 

Church buildings/halls

Churches may have a lot of questions about how their church buildings, halls and outdoor spaces can now be used safely. Much of the relevant guidance can be found in the Fabric and Building maintenance FAQs section, as well as the Genral FAQs section, on the Church of England website. 

We have collated some of it here:

If you have any questions about the guidance, you should in the first instance, contact your Archdeacon or Area Dean. You may also wish to contact the Diocesan Advisory Secretary for any queries about permissions and faculties: sarah.anderson@rochester.anglican.org

 

Community outreach and pastoral care at this time

While our buildings have been closed, the Church is not. The Archbishops have urged the Church to continue to meet the needs of vulnerable people in our communities.

How this can be carried out under the new restrictions is a constantly changing picture, and Government plans and Church of England advice is being updated all the time.

Here are some resources to help you:

 

Pastoral care

One of the church’s most important areas of ministry is pastoral care. The usual ways of undertaking this have been very significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst innovative ways are being found to keep in touch and offer care, the usual route of face to face visiting has not been possible in most situations.

This has been challenging and distressing for very many clergy and lay ministers as well as for those who receive such care. As we move from ‘lockdown’ a greater range of pastoral contact may become possible in some situations. This guidance aims to enable pastoral support and visiting while minimising risk as far as possible

If in doubt please contact the Community Engagement and Social Action team on:

  • Caroline Clarke (Diocesan Community Engagement and Social Action Adviser): caroline.clarke@rochester.anglican.org / 07585 101606
  • Keith Berry (Community Engagement Adviser, Tonbridge Archdeaconry): keith.berry@rochester.anglican.org
  • Julia Burton-Jones (Anna Chaplaincy Lead and Dementia Specialist): julia.burton-jones@rochester.anglican.org

 

Safeguarding

As we consider the changes taking place in society as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19), one thing that does not change, is the need to consider best practice in safeguarding is as important now as it has ever been.

Despite these uncertain times, the Diocesan Safeguarding Team continue to be available to you during this time. Whether you are a parish or an individual - please do continue to refer any safeguarding concerns to them and seek their advice and support. Find their contact details here

Please visit our Safeguarding pages for general safeguarding advice and contacts.

National church safeguarding advice during COVID-19

Our Diocesan Safegaurding Team also continue to monitor information updates coming from the National Safeguarding Team and can offer you effective advice and support. they are sending out regular updates to PArish Safeguarding Officers and Incumbents.

However, all the National Safeguarding Team guidance relating to COVID-19 can be found here

Domestic Abuse

The National Domestic Abuse helpline has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests for help since the lockdown, according to the charity Refuge. It is a sad fact therefore, that Domestic Abuse is happening within our parishes right now

Zoom

With so much activity now online, particular through online, keeping people safe is vitally important.

Please be aware of new security updates issued by Zoom and follow the best practice guidance on keeping meetings secure. 

Our Safeguarding Team can be contacted as follows:

  • Greg Barry (Case work advice and training): 07585 952174 / greg.barry@rochester.anglican.org
  • Claire Langridge (DBS and safe working practice) : 07825315748 / claire.langridge@rochester.anglican.org

 

Going online

Many churches have found creative ways to serve their communities and maintain worship during this time. Technology offers many possibilities to do this - whether telephone contact, online resources, or social media.

Live streaming or streaming pre recorded services online - either on a social media channel, on your website or through your A Church Near You page - offers another possibility.

As we begin to emerge from lockdown, church teams face a new challenge, as they continue try to understand what the future of Church will look like.

  • Visit our Digital Church Resource Hub for a range of practical, reflective and theological resources, as well as signposts to useful forums, 'How to Videos' and blogs about how to do church online.
  • You can find more blogs and webinars to help you a range of online skills, from livestreaming to online fundraising on the Church of England Labs Learning site
  • Don't forget to update your A Church Near You page to include any online services or activities you are providing.

 

Don't have internet access?
Do you know someone without internet access? Is the internet connection in your area poor? A number of churches have set up free-phone lines which allow people to dial in and listen to sermons and prayers. Read more here

Zoom also has the facility to allow people to dial into a session, with no need for an internet connection.

The national church has also set up the Daily Hope worship line. The phone-line offers a selection of hymns, reflections and prayers.

 

If you need more help and advice about your digital presence, please contact Jennifer Ross, Communications Manager and Bishop's Media adviser on: jennifer.ross@rochester.anglican.org or communications@rochester.anglican.org

 

Copyright

You also need to be aware that there are some copyright issues that come into play, especially around music, literature and images, when you share content online. 

Music copyright

There are several copyright permissions that come into play when streaming a service, which means it is not always an easy area to navigate.

You will not be covered by your usual CCLI licence for streaming and there are particular issues around using recorded music  - such as a cd - as opposed to a live performance.

  • Here's a short guide to help you as you consider how to include music legally in your service
  • The national Digital Team has also added some new guidance on music copyright in the FAQs section of their COVID-19 page

 

Music hub
In addition, the national church, working with St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Royal School of Church Music, has is now providing a resource of rights-free music for use in streamed services. 

They can be accessed via the A Church Near You Resource Hub. You must also have the CCLI Live Streaming Licence.

 

Other copyright: books, images

Permission should also be sought from the owner(s) of any other creative works included a service. If reproducing bible verses, or liturgy, usually there will be copyright information in the front of the publication, and usually they will allow for only a certain proportion to be reproduced.

For any images etc. the same rules would apply as in normal circumstances. Never assume that you can take an image found on Google and use it in a church service or include it in a service sheet or similar without permission.

If reading from a book, please check with the individual publishers as to their terms of use.

With regard to a Service Sheet, as long as there are appropriate licences/permissions in place, making that service sheet available online should be fine.
 

Finances and governance (PCCs /APCMs)

It is clear that the current crisis and closure of church buildings is hitting many parish finances immediately and significantly.

Through prayerful consideration, and by listening to the experiences of parishes, the Diocese has now launched the Diocese of Rochester COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

This fund offers an initial £750,000 package of support to help parishes in immediate financial need.

The support consists of:

  • Loans of between £2,000 and £25,000 for any parish who would like one, interest and repayment free for the first year.
  • Small support grants of £5,000 for those parishes in most acute financial need.  

To find out more visit: www.rochester.anglican.org/resources/finance/covid19-emergency-relief-fund/

 

Online giving

Churches rely on the generosity of their congregations and their communities to support their mission and ministry. With church buildings closed, people are not able to in their usual ways and so it even more important that those who can give are able to do so in variety of ways.

There is also lots of advice around running an online giving campaign on our own Generosity and Stewardship pages: www.rochester.anglican.org/resources/stewardship/

 

PCC meetings and APCMS

You can now meet physically in a church or a church hall if the guidance for the safe opening of these buildings is followed and good physical distancing and hygiene measures are employed.

Parochial church councils can, if they wish, meet using virtual means such as Skype or Zoom which enable the members to see and hear each other.

However, care must be taken so that members of a PCC who are unable to participate in a meeting in that way are not excluded from the PCC’s deliberations and decision making.

Annual meetings must normally be held each year by the end of May.  In most dioceses, as in Rochester Diocese, the bishop has made special provision extending the time for holding annual meetings of parishioners to choose churchwardens and annual parochial church meetings (APCMs) to 31 October 2020. 

For all the latest advice on PCC meetings and holding an APCM, please see the material in the Finance and governance FAQs section of the Church of England website.

 

Youth Ministry

Staying in contact and ministering to our young people is still very important.The Diocesan Children and Youth Advisers Network has produced resources to assist with the safe resumption of work with children, young people and families:

The Diocese's Children and Young People's team have been looking at ways they can help you to support your young people, children and their families during this period of uncertainty:

 

Your physical and mental health 

If you become ill, do not simply carry on working. Seek appropriate NHS advice. If you are the vicar or a member of the church leadership team, please contact the Area Dean or Archdeacon’s office.

For specific advice for clergy around support during sickness see this additional note here and accompanying absence reporting form or please contact Bishopscourt.

Parishes are also advised to check with their insurers as to the position of their cover with regard to the coronavirus. For those with Ecclesiastical, see this note.

There are many resources that seek to support those who may now find themselves self-isolating or working from home. This section links to a few of these that you might find helpful. It is not expected that all the guidance is appropriate to you in your current role, simply that you might find elements helpful.

Mental health and wellbeing:

Staying at home and self-isolation:

 

Dealing with grief

Coping with the death of a loved one is difficult at any time, but at this time of coronovirus and restrictions around gatherings, we recognise how painful loss will be at this time.

If you are directly affected by the death of a loved one, we would encourage you to discuss with your vicar or minister the possibility of a memorial service at a date in the future where more people can be present. There are some other resources you may find helpful.


Accessing prayers and reflections online

We appreciate that live streaming may not be for everyone. The national digital team have provided a wealth of online liturgies and prayer materials for people to access at home.

Church House Publishing has now produced a downloadable/printable version of the 'Prayers for use during COVID-19' (which include prayers for children, as well as a simple form of morning and night prayer). 

The files can be freely downloaded, e-mailed or printed by anyone via the website.This booklet is now also available to buy on the Church Publishing website. 

Please read the regularly updated coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for churches from the Church of England, which includes guidance on the distribution of printed communication in the current situation.

 

Diocesan Worship at Home Pack - We have also produced a new morning and prayer pack which can be shared with others, or which you can follow on your own. The Cathedral clergy offer prayers each day in their homes at 9am and 5pm - why not offer these prayers in communion with them at these times?

As well as this, we also have a number of local initiatives and resource to support your prayer life:

 

Beacons of Hope and weekly Reflections

  • Reflections: Every Monday, we are now sharing a video reflection from a senior member of diocesan clergy or laity, looking ahead to the following Sunday's Gospel reading. These can be found on our Youtube channel as well as on our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
  • Beacons of Hope: Twice a week, in collaboration with the Diocese of Canterbury we are also sharing short #BeaconsofHope videos from contributors across the two dioceses.

 

Stay up to date - get our regular Digest

During the coronavirus, we are sharing regular round-up called The Digest three times a week, to help keep everyone informed and connected.

It is sent to all role holders within the Diocese, but if you think you are not receiving it but should be, or you would just like to get regular updates, please subscribe here.




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