Willesden area bishop writes to his clergy with COVID-19 updates

1
191
Updated on 24th March 2020
 
Dear Colleagues
 
Complete Closure of our Church Buildings
 
We have now received another letter from the Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops, which is included in this mailing.
 
This complete closure of our buildings is not where we had hoped to be. The situation in London is now so serious that we are moving into the sort of spreading of COVID-19 that we have seen in Madrid and other major cities across Europe.
 
With this mailing is a poster that we would like you to attach to your church doors and noticeboards, adapted with your website and contact details.
 
I do want to thank you all for the flexible way in which you are carrying out your mission and pastoral ministry in these weird times. For the creative way in which you have embraced virtual Church, whether by streaming a mass, doing online interactive worship, or just simply hosting prayer online. Do share with each other examples of good practice – much of the fruit of your work is available on Facebook or YouTube channels.
 
Please also help members of your congregations and the wider parish to look to God in all this. We of all people are the people of hope. With Jesus Christ, we walk the Lenten journey and the Passiontide call to discipleship. In Jesus Christ, we experience Holy Week and share the benefits of his death for us on the cross. Amazed by Jesus Christ, we meet him risen from the tomb and victorious over sin and death. We have never “done” Lent, Holy Week and Easter like this before. But we of all people can help people with their fear of death, their anxiety for their loved ones and their puzzlement and questions about what the world is becoming. Now is the time for us to proclaim with clarity the Christian gospel of repentance, faith, new birth and the transformation of the Holy Spirit – and to call others into that story. Now, too, is the time to show love for neighbour in whatever ways we can.
 
I also want to urge you to pay attention to your own well-being. For some, isolation provides a break in life which nourishes them; for others, it brings on feelings of loneliness and may be detrimental to mental health and well-being. Use phone and video to stay in contact with family. Make connections with clergy colleagues and keep in touch with each other. If you do need help and would prefer to seek it anonymously, rather than through the Area Dean or Bishop (!), you can access the Health Assured EAP helpline. The details are below:
 
The Willesden Area provides an Employee and Clergy Assistance Programme (EAP) run by Health Assured. EAPs are intended to help employees deal with personal problems that might adversely impact their work performance, health, and wellbeing.  The telephone services are accessed via the freephone number 0800 030 5182.
 
The EAP offers cover for the member of clergy and their immediate family members (spouse/partner and children aged 16 to 24 in full time education, who reside at the same address).  The service provides access to:
•         Stress helpline
•         Structured telephone counselling
•         Referral to face to face counselling
•         Referral to serious illness and accident support
•         Tax advice
•         Legal advice (the EAP will not provide employment law advice)
•         Eldercare
•         Childcare
•         Medical information
 
Additional services available
Access to a range of engaging and useful online tools at www.healthassuredeap.co.uk including
•         Emotional support
•         Fitness advice (including video demonstrations)
•         Personal coaching tool
•         Health assessment
•         Medical information
 
On entering the site, users will be prompted for the below login details:
Username: Willesden
Password: Clergy
 
Annual Meetings
In view of the challenging times which we are all facing at present, it has been decided to extend considerably the deadlines for the holding of Annual Meetings this year.
 APCMs and Meetings of Parishioners to choose churchwardens can be held up until 31 October 2020 (instead of 31 May);Elections of deanery synod members, and members of the PCC therefore also take place up until 31 October;Current deanery synod members continue in office until 30 November. They will comprise the electorate in the General Synod election this year.Churchwardens who were chosen in 2019 continue to hold office until 31 January 2021, unless their successors are admitted to office before that.A copy of the Bishop’s Instrument, signed by Bishop Sarah, which gives effect to those changes, is attached to this mailing.
Contacting the Registry: the Registry Staff are working from home.
 
Richard Hastings (Registry Clerk) can be contacted by email on rhastings@wslaw.co.uk
Paul Morris is on pmorris@wslaw.co.uk
You can also contact Sue Kelly via her diverted extension (020 7593 5080) or by email – skelly@wslaw.co.uk
 Jon Baldwin is available on 07717 758683 or by email – jbaldwin@wslaw.co.uk
 The work of the Registry is continuing as normally as possible, notwithstanding remote working. 
 
Faculties
Faculty applications are being dealt with mainly by email.  Petitioners will be notified when a Faculty is granted so that, if appropriate, the relevant work may be put in hand.  For practical reasons, there may be some delay in the issue of the sealed Faculty itself. 
 
Baptisms
Emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible.
 
Funerals
Funerals can now only happen at the crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.
 
Marriages
Marriages cannot now take place. The only marriages that can currently be conducted are emergency marriages in extremis.
 
You may still be dealing with marriage preliminaries for the future (at their own risk!).
 
Marriage licences (Common Licences) may be necessary in cases where the reading of banns was incomplete prior to Churches being closed for public worship – or, of course, for other reasons. When marriages at a date in the future do proceed by licence, there will be a reduced fee of £100 for the issue of the licence, this being half the statutory fee.   We will nevertheless keep this under review and will adopt a sympathetic approach in cases of evident hardship. Arrangements are in place to facilitate the issue of licences, notwithstanding present circumstances. 
 
Meetings
Please assume that all meetings up to June (at least) are cancelled or postponed. This includes the Area Training programme, the INSET Day, and the Archdeacon’s Annual Visitations.
 
Ordinations
As mentioned before, these will take place around Michaelmas. Dates will be notified when sorted. The new deacons will in the meantime be licensed as Lay Ministers from 1st July – and although we don’t yet know what controls there will be over people moving house, parishes are urged to ensure that their housing is ready for occupation at the end of June, please.
 
Food banks and homeless provision
 
Can my church continue to run its food bank?
 
Foodbanks should continue where possible under strict guidelines and may have to move to be delivery points not places where people gather.
 
We are encouraging church people to do everything they can to support food banks and they do not need to close. Handwashing facilities and hand sanitizer should be provided for volunteers and food bank users and particular care given to cleaning any contact surfaces (doors and door handles, counters, toilet facilities). Ask people to maintain physical distance of at least 2 metres.
 
Can my church continue to run its soup kitchen or equivalent?
It can, but we recommend that volunteers maintain strict social distancing and that clients are asked to queue outside and come in one by one to receive a pre-packed meal/food parcel to take away. See hygiene recommendations above.

Our church runs a drop-in centre for homeless people. How do we manage the current situation?
The latest government advice can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-services-for-people-experiencing-rough-sleeping
Churches may remain open to offer this kind of provision and should follow any updates to government advice. Your insurance company should also be kept updated.
 
Use of church halls
What should I do about hall hires or the lessee using the hall?
 
If you let your hall on a casual hire basis the hire for all public meetings should stop.
If your hall is leased to a third party, a nursery for example, it is for the nursery to make their decision based on the Government advice.
 
What do I do if the hall tenant says they cannot pay the rent?
In the first instance speak to Anne Davies, who will be able to point you to the best advice. Agreeing to vary when the rent is paid might be a pragmatic solution.
 
National Guidance can be accessed at
https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-churches?mc_cid=7a737a5a36&mc_eid=0a012783bf#na
 
Diocese of London guidance is now being gathered here
https://www.london.anglican.org/support/coronavirus-covid-19/
 
There are FAQs on things that you have been asking here:
https://www.london.anglican.org/support/additional-information-for-london-parishes/
 
Let’s pray for each other and for our communities in these difficult times. The primitive church was kicked out of the synagogue and met without buildings. It is now the moment for us to discover how to meet in the same way.
 
Contact details:
 
Nikki Court, my PA, is working from home: 07759 754893 nikki.court@london.anglican.org
 
Anne Davies, Archdeacon’s PA, can be contacted on 0207 932 1273 anne.davies@london.anglican.org
 
My mobile is 07950 299685 bishop.willesden@london.anglican.org

With love and prayers
 
Pete Broadbent
Bishop of Willesden