Pastoral letter from Bishop Paul relating to Covid-19

COVID Regulations 

A message from Bishop Paul

Although most legal restrictions relating to the Covid pandemic are ending on Monday 19th July, a degree of caution is still needed where a large number of people gather in enclosed spaces, which of course, includes our churches.

Not only is the delta variant of the virus still spreading rapidly, it is also the case that those with supressed immune systems still need a degree of additional protection against the virus.

Whilst in broader society, there may well be those who will welcome 19th July with a complete abandonment of anti-Covid measures, we owe it to others to be prudent in what we do in our churches at this time.

With this in mind, and so that there is some uniformity of practise across our diocese, I would like the following to be adopted in our churches. Most of this is in the C.B.C.E.W. guidance.

General Guidance:

1.       Face coverings should still be worn by all those coming to a church service (exemptions for medical reasons excluded.). Those who do not wish to wear a covering should not be banned from entering, but they should be encouraged to sit a distance away from other people.

2.      Social distancing will not be mandatory in our churches; however larger churches might consider still keeping some social distancing in place. Alternatively, if you have a building that can keep a section for those who would feel safer and less vulnerable by maintaining socially distanced sitting, then you could do so.

3.      Hand sanitising will remain necessary as people arrive.

4.      The numbers for weddings, funerals and baptisms are limited by the capacity of each building.

5.      There is no longer a requirement to clean benches etc. between services; however, it will remain best practice to at least clean bench tops if there are two services on the same day. Frequently-touched surfaces, such as door handles should continue to be cleaned regularly.

Liturgical issues:

1.       Holy Communion (in the hand) should be restored to its traditional place and with a Communion procession (trying to accommodate those who wish to retain social distancing.) It is recommended that stewards are used to invite people to the Communion procession row by row.

2.      Communion on the tongue is permissible, and it should take place at the end of Communion, rather than after Mass, and the priests must use sanitiser after each communicant has presented themselves.

3.      Holy Communion under both kinds will not be re-introduced at this time.

4.      Singing can be restored, though you may need to consider if this works with face coverings. C.B.C.E.W. recommends a phased re-introduction of singing. Hymn books and service books can be used once in a day.

5.      The collection basket/plate should still not be passed around, though collectors may move around with baskets, as previously advised.

6.      The Procession of Gifts may be reinstated.

7.      The Gloria, Creed, Prayers of the Faithful and Second Reading should be re-introduced if any of these has been omitted. However, Mass should still not be unnecessarily long.

8.     A Sign of Peace involving contact with other persons should remain suspended.

9.      We need to wait a little longer before the re-introduction of holy water in the stoups.

10.  The dispersal of people immediately after Mass should be orderly.

Yours sincerely in Christ

+Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

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