Coronavirus - Guidance for parishes

The Government has recently announced that places of worship may reopen for public worship from 4th July, providing physical distancing remains in place.

You can read the Church of England's full statement regarding this development here.

We are currently awaiting detailed guidance from the Government, and Church of England guidance will similiarly be updated to take account of the Government's advice.


In response to the news, Bishop James and Bishop Simon have issued the following message:

"We welcome the announcement from the Prime Minister that from 4 July, church buildings may reopen for public worship including weddings. We also echo the Bishop of London’s comment that, while there will be real joy at this prospect, we are still very much on a journey. There will be many who will understandably be cautious at this news.

"Many churches across the Diocese have already, where possible, opened their buildings for private individual prayer. Much care has been taken, and much comfort given to visitors.  Many parishes are also well advanced in planning for this next phase.

"We continue to be thankful to all who are responding so responsibly and carefully to each new possibility, and in ways that are right for them and their communities.  We are particularly conscious that many of these careful decisions come at a time when many are feeling fatigued.

"There is no rush to next steps – each place must make its own decisions based on local circumstances – and we also await further detailed guidance from Government and the Church of England nationally.  Please continue to seek guidance where needed and to support one another.

With our prayers and good wishes."
 

  • Weddings will be able to resume, along with other services. Updated advice for couples will be published on The Church of England website as soon as possible.
  • The Church of England understands that the reference in the announcement to a maximum of 30 people applies only to weddings and not all services, where numbers will depend on the size of the building and the specific circumstances. The Government will be publishing further guidance on places of worship in due course.
  • The Church of England Recovery Group will also issue advice on subjects including singing and music for which a review by Public Health England is currently in progress.
  • All the previously available planning guidance from the Church of England's Recovery Team, led by the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, is still available in the Documents and FAQs section of the Church of England's COVID-19 page.

If you have any questions about the guidance, you should in the first instance, contact your archdeacon.

 

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:

Community outreach 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:

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: caroline.clarke@rochester.anglican.org / 07585 101606

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.

  • 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: www.achurchnearyou.com/live-stream/?tags=Live_stream

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: cofe.io/Webinars.

Please also contact Jennifer Ross, Communications Manager and Bishop's Media adviser, who will be happy to help you, on jennifer.ross@rochester.anglican.org or communications@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. 

  

Church processes and Finances

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.

 

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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