I am sure that you all have questions about how your lives will look after this weekend's announcements and will be scanning the official document for your own particular experience. In my blog posting 'What if? One' I expressed my considered opinion to the diocese that the church buildings should be allowed to open as other public spaces and shops open within the governments plan. However the consensus of opinion in the hierarchy of the church at the present time is that this should not happen. It seems that this will be the last thing to be allowed under the CofE reopening plan and it has no mention in the official documentation.
We seem to be looking at the possibility of some small gatherings for worship in July if the disease continues to decline. I have scheduled a piece for your consideration that looks forward to this possibility under the heading, ‘What if ? Two’. However I feel that this is not the time to post this as there is too much uncertainty this week and I need to look at it again given the present tone from the central church.
I will not be presiding at a private sacrament for streaming from our churches as it is contrary to my theology and implies all sorts of sacramental and priestly privileges that are not in my church(wo)manship. …. a great debate to be had here about this!
In my theology we are all ‘The Body of Christ’, taken, broken and scattered into the reality of our lives, we are the living breathing sacrament of God of which our Eucharists are the ‘visible sign of this invisible Grace’. …. basically, I can't ‘do it without you’!
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: “We note from the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy that churches could be open from July as part of the conditional and phased plan to begin lifting the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in our church buildings.
"We are examining what steps we will need to take to do so safely and are actively planning ahead in preparation. We strongly support the Government’s approach of continuing to suppress the transmission of the virus and accordingly, we recognise that at this time public worship cannot return in the interests of public health and safety.”
In a discussion led by the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally, who chairs a group examining how the Church of England might proceed once the current restrictions for COVID-19 are relaxed or lifted, the House of Bishops recognised that there have been some welcome signs of improvement in the current situation, including a reduction in new cases and hospital admissions giving evidence for hope.
While church buildings remain closed for public worship, in line with Government advice, the Bishops agreed in principle to a phased approach to lifting restrictions, in time and in parallel with the Government’s approach, with three broad stages as infection levels improve:
1.An initial immediate phase allowing very limited access to church buildings for activities such as streaming of services or private prayer by clergy in their own parishes, so long as the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are taken
2. Subsequently access for some rites and ceremonies when allowed by law, observing appropriate physical distancing and hygiene precautions
3. Worship services with limited congregations meeting, when Government restrictions are eased to allow this