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/ 6 May 2020

New guidance for London’s church buildings

The House of Bishops yesterday backed a phased approach to revising access to church buildings, in a national discussion led by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally. Whilst church buildings remain closed for public worship, in line with Government advice, the Bishops have agreed to three provisional stages whereby restrictions can be lifted over time, subject to ongoing improvement in the COVID-19 picture, and to changes in public health guidance.

It was agreed that the timing of when to implement the revised advice should be made by individual Diocesan Bishops, depending on their local situation. The London College of Bishops has therefore agreed with immediate effect that the Diocese’s churches can move to the first stage, which allows for limited access to church buildings for streaming of services or private prayer by clergy in their own parishes, so long as the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are taken.

Area Deans across London have been asked by the College to work within each of their deaneries to determine what is suitable and possible locally, bearing in mind that what is right for one parish may not be right for another. The aim is for deaneries to plan together how to offer a suitable and coordinated variety of worship for their communities, and to expand what can be offered as circumstances and public health advice permit.

Bishop Sarah said, following the House of Bishops meeting:

“We are hugely grateful for all that our churches and clergy have been doing to support the Government’s message to stay at home, to support the NHS, and to save lives. While it is clear there will be no imminent return to normality, the emphasis is now turning towards how and when aspects of social distancing can be eased, although we remain mindful of the potential risks of a second wave of the virus. Nevertheless, it now makes sense for us to start to look ahead to the potential easing of restrictions so that our clergy and churches can be prepared.”

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