These are FAQs for church leaders and those who would like clarity about the phased re-opening of church buildings.
The Diocese of Exeter Preparing to Re-open our Church Buildings guidance has been written to assist churches with planning for the re-opening of buildings and the gradual resumption of weddings, funerals and public worship.
Please read the most current advice regarding church buildings during the Covid-19 pandemic, if you have any questions regarding the information or guidance please contact your Archdeacon.
Pastoral Care for Clergy and Readers
The pastoral care of the clergy and Readers is vital at this time of national crisis. Please make sure you look after yourselves and your family. If you have any symptoms please make sure you self-isolate as per the Government Advice. If you do need to self-isolate or have underlying health conditions, please inform your Rural Dean and Archdeacon.
Please make sure you keep in touch with your Chapter colleagues, perhaps having regular phone contact, or virtual meetings using platforms such as https://zoom.us/
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 we are a people of prayer, and that we need to remember to love our neighbour and to do everything that we can to avoid the spread of the virus.
All Clergy and Readers
Clergy and Licensed Lay Leaders may now enter their church buildings for private prayer or to record or livestream church services. More information is available here.
Clergy and Readers with underlying health conditions
Clergy and Readers of any age with underlying health conditions should not officiate at any services including funerals.
Clergy and Readers who are fit and well
Clergy and Readers who are fit and well can take funerals and visit their church building for private prayer or to record or livestream a service. Any pastoral visits in person must be in line with the Church of England’s current guidance. They should not leave home to conduct or attend meetings nor to take services, other than funerals and emergency baptisms.
We still strongly urge those over 70 to take extra care, but it is now up to each individual to decide whether to take services or not, always at the invitation of the incumbent.
Churches remain closed to all but Clergy and Licensed Lay Leaders
Only Clergy and Licensed Lay Leaders are currently permitted to enter church buildings. The only exception to this is if the church itself is being used as an official Foodbank distribution point. Churches which collect food to take to Foodbanks must be kept locked and alternative collection points indicated on the noticeboard. Please read this guidance for anyone re-entering a church building.
Please make sure there is a notice about the closure on your website and on the doors of your church, explaining how people can join the church in worship and prayer, even though they cannot have access to the building. A template for the poster can be downloaded here.
Building work on churches
If work on your church building is due to start before mid-June this should be postponed.
Building Insurance whilst churches are empty
Read guidance from Ecclesiastical Insurance in regards to temporarily closed or unoccupied churches.
Securing and caring for church buildings during the crisis
Read guidance from the Church of England for incumbents, churchwardens and PCC members.
Notice for clergy living in diocesan housing
Please read the latest guidance regarding what to do if any repairs are needed in diocesan housing.
All public worship has been suspended.
Communion may only be celebrated by a priest at home provided another member of their family is present.
Please think of creative ways you can encourage people to pray and worship at home. For example:
- Video recording reflective services and circulating an online link.
- Running a prayer meeting or service using phone or video conferencing technology like Zoom.
- Live-streaming an act of worship via social media or on your church website using a smart phone, tablet or computer led by an ordained or lay minister on their own or with others in their household. There is clear guidance about how to do this and information about music copyright on our resources page: https://exeter.anglican.org/resources/coronavirus-guidance/coronavirus-resources/
- Please consider joining our diocese Comms and Digital Facebook group where you can get technical advice and share ideas for creative worship: https://www.facebook.com/groups/195948338281852/?source_id=394793003931439
It is not possible to conduct any weddings in churches until further notice, however if people contact you asking about weddings it would be helpful to have a conversation with them about holding their wedding in your church once it is possible to do so. More info here: Church Weddings
See the most up to date information on the Church of England Website here
Funerals can only take place at the graveside or at crematorium. They may only be attended by immediate family (spouse/partner, children, parents following physical-distancing guidance)
For the most up to date information, it is vital you read the funerals section on the Church of England website here
Any memorial services will need to be deferred until after the ban on public worship has been lifted.
It is really important to continue to support the work of your local Funeral Directors by regularly checking in with them during this Crisis.
Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and social distancing as far as possible.
Please see the most up to date information on the Church of England Website here
Currently all Confirmations are postponed in our Diocese.
Annual Parochial Church Meetings and Meetings of Parishioners for Election of Churchwardens
APCMs which have not yet taken place are to be postponed. On 25th March the Bishop of Exeter issued formal instructions to be implemented in every parish concerning APCMs, and the elections of Churchwardens, lay representatives on PCCs and lay representatives on deanery synods. A set of FAQs have also been prepared to help explain the implications. All Archdeacons’ Visitations scheduled for June have been cancelled, and new arrangements will be announced in due course. An additional formal instruction regarding the election to deanery synods of clergy with permission to officiate has been issued.
PCC meetings and Standing Committees
PCCs and their Standing Committees should not meet physically but guidance has been issued permitting them to meet virtually and to conduct business by correspondence as necessary. Click here for guidance on holding remote online PCC meetings. If you have concerns or questions about how PCCs should operate during this period please contact your archdeacon.
End of Year Accounts
The deadline for holding the APCM has now been extended from 31st May to 31st October 2020. This means that now the accounts will not be due until 28 days after each PCC has held its APCM. So the deadline will vary for each PCC depending upon their APCM date. Read more
All church meetings, events or gatherings of any sort must be postponed, cancelled or moved to a virtual platform.
Use of church halls
All church halls are now closed. The only exception to this is that where a church or hall is used as a base for social care provision such as a food bank, it will be important to arrange continued access, with social distancing measures in place.
- Please make sure your website home pages are up to date with current information & contact details. More advice here.
- Check your entry on https://www.achurchnearyou.com/
- Please make sure there is a notice on the Church door with contact details and information about what services you are offering online (a downloadable poster can be found here )
Maintaining contact with vulnerable and isolated people
We are encouraging churches to find creative ways of staying in touch with those who are isolated and vulnerable and to give them spiritual support and also practical support as far as possible. We have published a list of digital and print resources and we are also developing new content. Read more on the digital resources section of the coronavirus page on the CofE website or on our own Diocese of Exeter website at https://exeter.anglican.org/resources/coronavirus-guidance/coronavirus-resources/
Should we still hand deliver our Parish Magazine?
Some Studies suggest that Coronavirus COVID-19 can live on paper and cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, and so any paper delivery represents a transmission risk. Local hand-deliveries also mean a volunteer will touch gates and postboxes and may come into close proximity with those who may be shielding. For these reasons, parishes are encouraged to look to digital communication, and telephone calls to keep in touch. The Government has designated postal workers and delivery professionals as key-workers, so any vital printed communication should be sent through the post.
Bell ringing is currently suspended. Please read this statement from the Central Council of Church Bellringers which explains why.
Please encourage people to continue giving during the crisis perhaps making the most of digital opportunities: https://exeter.anglican.org/resources/giving/digital-giving/
For more support and advice see https://www.parishresources.org.uk/coronavirus/
Church of England Advice https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches
Diocese of Exeter – General Advice https://exeter.anglican.org/resources/coronavirus-guidance/
Diocese of Exeter – Community Advice https://exeter.anglican.org/resources/coronavirus-guidance/coronavirus-resources/
Public Health England – for advice about contact with those with coronavirus: 030036 916473
Please contact your local archdeacon if you have any more questions
The Ven. Andrew Beane, Archdeacon of Exeter email Andrew
The Ven. Douglas Dettmer, Archdeacon of Totnes email Douglas
01626 832064 / 07898932654
The Ven. Nick Shutt, Archdeacon of Plymouth email Nick
01752 858382 / 07736 916473
The Ven. Dr Mark Butchers, Archdeacon of Barnstaple email Mark