CAPTION: Churches across Devon will be finding new ways to connect with their communities and support those who need help

Doing church differently but not shutting up shop

Posted: 17th March, 2020

Public church services across Devon are to be suspended but church buildings are to remain open for prayer and reflection to reflect the Government’s coronavirus guidance.

The decision was announced by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

The Church of England’s Public Health Advisor, the Reverend Doctor Brendan McCarthy said: “This isn’t about shutting up shop for the church.

“We want to keep the prayer life of the country as active as possible at this time.”

Life events like funerals and weddings can still go ahead but with as few people present as possible.

Prayer gatherings and acts of worship can still happen in churches as long as people observe the hygiene precautions and a keep a distance of two metres from others.

The Church of England is due to publish guidance as soon as possible about other key events in the church calendar, like weddings, baptisms and church meetings.

Practical and Pastoral Support

The Church of England in Devon has already suspended a number of events and meetings in the light of the Government advice but is working alongside Devon’s churches to provide practical and pastoral community support and find new ways of meeting together even if it cannot be physically.

Big events in Devon which have been postponed include the three Joy2020 outreach weekends in Exeter, Totnes and Plymouth. It is hoped they will take place in 2021 instead.

The Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday at Exeter Cathedral has been cancelled as a public service. This is usually the one day of the year when all Devon’s priests and readers (licensed lay ministers) come together for a service led by the Bishop of Exeter.

Instead from Sunday 22 March there are plans to broadcast scaled-down acts of worship led by the Bishop of Exeter, Bishop of Crediton and Bishop of Plymouth via the Diocese of Exeter’s Youtube Channel, Facebook Page and Instagram Page.

“Our churches offer a Christian presence in every community in Devon” Archdeacon Andrew Beane

The Venerable Andrew Beane, the Archdeacon of Exeter, said: “We are in the middle of unprecedented times for our country and our churches and the communities in which they serve.

“The most important thing to remember is that our churches are open for prayer, that we need to remember to love our neighbour and to do everything that we can to avoid the spread of the virus.

“The Diocese of Exeter is doing everything that it possibly can to support our network of clergy, lay ministers and volunteers.

“Our churches are in a unique position, offering a Christian presence in every community in Devon and we want to make the most of that.”

Resources and advice for churches about how to live-stream or record ‘services’, simple contact cards, acts of worship and prayers can be found here

The Diocese will also be co-ordinating advice about how churches can best offer practical and emotional support to people who live in their parishes.

Communications Director Chloe Axford said: “Like many other organisations we are are now working out what the latest Government coronavirus advice means for churches in practice but providing clarity, practical and pastoral support to churches at this time is our key priority.

“We will be producing videos, live events and bringing our church communities together through our existing social media channels.”

Churches across Devon are already planning to hold regular groups online, using social media or conferencing facilities and the Diocese of Exeter has started two new Facebook groups where people can share ideas and support each other.