Latest advice regarding the Diocesan response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Forwarded information below from the Bishop of Ely diocese giving latest advice regarding the diocesan response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Notices are being put outside the church in St Michael’s and St Johns. 

To all clergy (licensed and PTO), LLMs, Churchwardens, PCC Secretaries, and Members of the Diocesan Synod and Bishop’s Council from the Bishop of Huntingdon

Dear Friends,

You will have seen the news coverage of the developing coronavirus (Covid-19) situation and the government advice issued yesterday afternoon.  New guidance has also been issued by the Church of England yesterday, that gives much more extensive advice about different kinds of services and activities.   Please read this fully and carefully. One thing it asks is that each benefice/ parish/ BMO should develop a continuity plan, using the attached pro forma.  Please do this as a matter of priority.  The incumbent/priest-in-charge should attend to this in the first instance, in consultation with other ministry colleagues and churchwardens.  For parishes in vacancy, the churchwardens should do this in consultation with the rural dean.  Please do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions.

If you are a Rural Dean, please be prepared to take on additional coordinating functions, especially for funerals if a number of clergy are not able to work, and make sure you ask one or two people to be ready to deputize for you should the need arise.

You must not soldier on regardless if you or a member of your family feel unwell – whilst you might be fine, others who you might involuntarily infect may well not be.  If clergy become ill, or need to self-isolate, please contact the Bishop Stephen’s office (Hannah Cleugh in the first instance), as well as the others who are listed on your contingency plan, in order that we can support and pray for you, and also support pastoral provision in your parish(es).

Attached also is a brief leaflet offering a very simple guide about how we are seeking to respond appropriately and sensibly, out of care and love, in the present situation.  You may wish to display this clearly in churches, on social media and website, and distribute as appropriate to congregations.

In addition to the advice already circulated about administering communion in one kind only and not intincting (dipping the wafer into the cup), please note that we are now advised that, where possible, people should receive communion standing so as not to touch altar rails, as this presents a risk of transmission.  I have received enquiries about pre-intincting wafers but I strongly recommend in the current circumstances we should minimize as much as possible any handling of wafers.

We are also advised now to suspend catering, including serving coffee or tea, where multiple people will handle mugs, utensils and foodstuffs.  

Some of you have asked about baptisms and confirmations.  At this stage there is no advice to cancel any services, however precautions are advised.  

The advice around such services is under the tab headed ‘Can baptisms, confirmations and ordinations still proceed?’

You are asked to note particularly the advice around baptisms:

  • The Priest must wash their hands before and after making the sign of the cross on each candidate’s forehead.
  • Where possible, if the candidate is a baby or small child, they should be held by the parents/godparents rather than the priest taking them in their own arms.
  • It is preferable for water to be poured on the candidate’s head using a baptismal shell.
  • If chrism/oil is to be used the priest should use a spoon or similar implement.
  • In any event the priest should wash their hands before and after each baptismal act.
  • Baptism by Immersion should not take place as this represents a transmission risk.

Confirmations will go ahead as usual, with the bishop washing their hands thoroughly between candidates.

Note that we are advised not to wash feet, as many parishes would normally be expecting to do on Maundy Thursday.

All of this is mainly advice as to how we should act when we gather for worship, study or fellowship.  But obviously our pastoral concern is for the whole of the communities in which we are set and people among whom we are called to serve, and especially for those who are most vulnerable.  Now is the moment (if you have not already done this) to be in contact with other organisations locally (schools, parish councils, ecumenical and other faith partners, and community groups) about how best to work together to support people in your parishes and communities who might be most likely to fall through the cracks, and to think in a co-ordinated way about how they can be supported both safely and effectively.  This may include practical things like delivering food or medicine, and also spiritual and emotional support for those who may be isolated or very anxious about their families, friends, support networks or employment.  Be in conversation with your local foodbank about how best to help them, and mechanisms for ensuring that people are not left without food. We will be circulating some further advice about this, and on social media, shortly

It goes without saying that we need to be particularly mindful of those who work in national and local government, in the NHS and social care, in prisons, or other sectors that are likely to be very difficult and stretched.  

We do not know precisely how this will develop, but we need to plan as far as possible for all reasonable eventualities, and to respond with love and care as the situation unfolds.

Thank you for all you are doing and I will continue to be in touch.

With good wishes,

The Rt Revd Dr Dagmar Winter

The Bishop of Huntingdon


Twitter: @dagmarkirk

Further information

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