URGENT PASTORAL STATEMENT
In the light of our current national situation and the latest Prime Ministerial broadcast, here below is our initial response. Further updates and guidance will follow as the situation develops tomorrow.
Closing Church Buildings – UPDATE
Concerning measures to slow the COVID- 19 virus, the time has come not only for us to suspend public worship, but for us to close our church buildings entirely, across the Church of England, Birmingham. In doing this, we are demonstrating the importance of people staying at home and maintaining physical distancing in saving lives. Please add notices to your website and social media platforms, as appropriate, and tell people by phone, how they can join with the church in worship and prayer with an emergency telephone number so that contact can be made if required.
Clergy and Leaders should continue their pattern of prayer and worship in their homes. Those who wish to offer access to this online, are encouraged to do so from their homes only, in accordance with the strict government guidance to restrict all non-essential travel. St Philip’s Cathedral, will also be closed and no longer continuing in use as a location from which services will be streamed or recorded. Resources to enable this further will be available via the Update and CofEB social media in the coming days. While the strong recommendation is in place to remain in your home except for key workers, essential supplies and in extreme circumstances, encouragement is also given to think creatively about use of telephones in situations where online connection is not possible. Further tools for worship, bible study and devotion at home will also be made available online over the coming days and weeks, to enable people with biblical reflection, spiritual communion, and personal devotion. Where you can meet virtually for prayer and Bible study, please do so.
For the duration of this Crisis, all are called to consider our actions against the need to support the common good and also protect ourselves, families and neighbours. The very love of neighbour that leads us to want to come together requires us to sacrifice congregating for a season.
Where church buildings house Food Banks, please contact the Archdeacons for guidance. Guidance on building maintenance and checks for insurance purposes will be issued shortly from the Property Team.
Closing Church Buildings – Funerals
With the closure of church buildings, provision should be made for Funeral Services to be held only at Crematoria and the graveside. Clergy and Ministers are asked to liaise closely with Funeral Directors, in the circumstances of each case, and ensure that the few necessary attendees are at no time closer than 2 metres to anyone, except those with whom they live. Particular attention will need to be given to arrangements for entering and leaving the Crematorium, and when there is a burial, for mourners at the graveside. New liturgical material will be made available shortly.
If the new government advice is causing severe and immediate pastoral difficulty, please contact the Archdeacons or the Bishops.
Closing Church Buildings – Weddings and Baptisms
With the closure of church buildings, weddings can no longer take place within them. Neither is it permitted for a wedding to take place at another location or virtually. Wedding services should be postponed.
Although we are rightly restrained from normal occasional offices, in cases of extreme emergency (i.e. imminent death) please contact your Bishop or Archdeacon immediately for guidance before proceeding.