Coronavirus - Guidance for parishes

All our places of worship are now fully closed with immediate effect – that is, for private prayer and daily offices as well as for public worship. 

What can churches do now?

The central Church of England team have been putting in enormous efforts to provide parish, clergy and church specific guidance on what do in light of the changing Government advice on coronavirus.

This Guidance is updated regularly on a dedicated page on the Church of England website and includes areas covering the following:

To help everyone navigate to the latest guidance, a new Version Log button has been added to the top of C of E's main COVID-page.

When clicked, it will take you to a blog post detailing updates, dates they were made, and where to find them.

In addition to this, version numbers and dates of issue are being added to the body of guidance documents themselves. 


A partial and phased return to church buildings

Following a meeting of the House of Bishops' on Tuesday 5 May, Bishop Simon Burton-Jones, has written to all clergy and lay ministers to inform them that, the first phase of an easing of restrictions on the use of church buildings can now begin.

While our church buildings remain closed for public worship, with immediate effect, ministers may now enter their churches for the following reasons:

  1. Pray the daily offices
  2. Live stream or pre-record worship
  3. Celebrate the Eucharist on behalf of the community
  4. Ring one bell from the ground floor to announce prayers being said
  5. Check the fabric of the building in the course of these duties

Other stipulations and necessary precautions apply. You can read these in full  here

Before returning to the church building, ministers should also take care to consider National Church guidance which has been issued regarding re-entering the church building.

This is being constantly updated and can be found in the Fabric and building maintenance section of the Church of England's COVID 19 page:

Bishop Simon has also made clear that there is no onus on any minister to return to church at this point if they do not wish to, and that worship can continue to be offered from home. 

If you have any queries about the Diocesan guidance, please contact your Archdeacon in the first instance.


Community outreach at this time

While our buildings may be 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:

This is a very dynamic situation and so adherence to current public health advice and safeguarding must be paramount at all times

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

  • Caroline Clarke: / 07585 101606

Our Safeguarding Team can be contacted as follows:

  • Greg Barry (Case work advice and training): 07585 952174 /
  • Claire Langridge (DBS and safe working practice) : 07825315748 /


Going online

Many churches are finding creative ways to serve their communities and maintain worship. 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.

  • Live streaming is now one of the permitted activities for a minister entering their building. Read more here

For those churches who have been able to give it a try, it has proved a great way to stay connected with their congregations, as well as reach new people.

Here are some helpful guides to get you started:


You can find more blogs to help you with streaming, and how to use digital to help you connect at this time, on the Church of England Labs Learning site

Don't forget to tag your live streams on your A Church Near You page using the 'Live stream' tag. This will mean they appear on the map:

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


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.


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.


Need more help? 

The national digital team are really stepping up their offering and are hosting lots of FREE webinars to help you as you explore digital ways of being Church. 

All of these can be booked for free in the Labs Learning section of the Church of England website:

Please also contact Jennifer Ross, Communications Manager and Bishop's Media adviser, who will be happy to help you, on or



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


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. 


Church processes and Finances

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

These are unusual and unexpected times for all of us. We are assessing new information daily, including being in contact with National Church Institutions, and looking at how we can support you best through this time:

There have been questions too about Annual meetings (APCMS) and elections: 


Youth Ministry

Staying in contact and ministering to our young people is still very important. 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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