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Guidance for parishes following the death of HM the Queen
Update 14 September: The BBC has announced that churches and other venues may show the Queen’s funeral without a TV licence. See the full details on the BBC website. The BBC article states that to screen the service you still need a PRS license, CCLI have confirmed that no PRS license is needed.
Books of condolence: Archivists nationally are currently discussing what should happen to all the books of condolence from churches. For the meantime, keep them safe and as soon as the archivists have agreed a consistent approach that will be communicated out.
Following the sad announcement of the death of Her Majesty the Queen, please find below some guidance notes and suggested activity in response.
Resources and liturgy have been published on the Church of England website.
For the guidance document from the Church of England, including a list of key dates, please click here. It has been confirmed that Friday 9th September is D-Day.
These are just suggestions, but you may wish to support your local community in their mourning:
Provide tea-lights. Think of where people will be able to light them and leave flowers and tributes if a large amount of space is needed. Silver foil covering steps or surfaces in church could be one way to allow greater space for candles/flowers.
This is particularly for large churches, though smaller parishes may also want to offer it. The suggestion is to buy smart black A4 ringbinders and good quality paper rather than official condolence books. Then these can be endlessly expanded/replaced (some defamatory comments occasionally happen, so these can be removed). Some stationery shops have ringbinders with curved spines which look less ‘office-y’ than most.
Parishes could think about printing small cards with photo plus prayer on the reverse, for people to take away, or some other form of prayers for people to use individually, as a pastoral help.
It is likely that a lot of non-regular worshippers will come to church. Whatever regular services you hold could be adjusted. Have extra orders of service available. A very simple variation would be to have a time of silence and perhaps a short prayer, and then to sing ‘Praise, my soul, the King of heaven,’ known to be one of Her Majesty’s favourite hymns, and familiar enough for someone to sing unaccompanied if necessary.
You may want to consider an additional services: a special Evensong of thanksgiving and remembrance, for example, or a local Vigil, as well as what form the Sunday services might take.
Suggested liturgy will be released shortly.
Some possible readings:
Psalm 23 *
Psalm 121 †
Ecclesiastes 12.1-7 †
Revelation 7.9-17 †
Revelation 21.1-6 *
- used at the funeral of King George VI
† used at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
It might be appropriate sing this at the end of your Sunday services. The new form (God save the King) is technically correct, according to the College of Heralds, from the moment the announcement of Her Majesty’s death was made. If using the National Anthem at any point, it would be wise to print out the words (or project them on a screen) so that people don’t get the words him/her wrong by mistake.
Keep the church open.
It is possible that people may be looking for somewhere to go to express their feelings and respond in prayer all through the night after the news is first announced. Whoever is available (even if the vicar is on holiday) might need to stay up and stay around.
A Vigil service is expected to be broadcast from St Paul’s Cathedral. It may be that people want to come out after this to light a candle etc.
It would be appropriate to change to the liturgical colour purple, for churches with altar frontals and vestments.
Churches and public buildings with flag-poles should fly a flag at half-mast as soon as possible. But, officially, on the day after the death is announced when the new King is proclaimed, flags should fly at full-mast again for the day. (You might want not to fly a flag at all on this second day, so as not to be thought disrespectful by those who will not know that full-mast on this occasion is correct.) Then flags go back again to half-mast from day 3.
Half-mast means two-thirds of the way up the flagpole with at least the height of the flag between its top and the top of the pole.
The appropriate flag is the Union Flag (“Union Jack”) or the Cross of St George flag.
Where a Church has bells, these may be rung or tolled as an indication of public mourning, in compliance with any local Risk Assessment re: Public Health Regulations. It is appropriate for bells to be muffled or- half-muffled when the flags are at half-mast, unmuffled when flags at fullmast (as above).
On the announcement of death, bells may be tolled for one hour as shown below:
- If the announcement occurs after 1600 hrs: bells toll at noon on the following day