On Palm Sunday, Bishop Sarah reflected that because we cannot make the outward journey of Holy Week, the inner journey is more necessary than ever. Yesterday we saw the number of deaths in London rise to 1482. There was the grave warning that if we did not take the call for social distancing seriously, we are still three weeks off the peak of the virus.
We know that those working in our London hospitals are under ever-increasing pressure as they put their lives on the line for ours. It feels like we are already walking in the wilderness of Good Friday.
You may have seen the misleading headline in the Telegraph today, ‘Vicars told to ignore guidelines banning them from their own churches ahead of Easter service’. You all know this is not correct, and we want to remind you that church buildings remain closed in the Diocese of London.
The College of Bishops here in Diocese of London had taken the decision that:
“Because there are a very few churches in London Diocese where the church is accessible by an internal door from the clergy home, or can be accessed from the clergy home without leaving the curtilage of the church, we will encourage those – and only those – clergy to pray in their churches privately and to consider whether they could live stream their services from within the church building.”
However, this advice, which we published before the Archbishops’ latest direction, appears to be being used cynically by some, either to say we are ignoring guidelines from the Archbishops and Bishops in other dioceses, or to push the boundaries of the guidelines. This was never the intention. So, whilst it is painful to ask, we are asking the limited numbers of you to whom the above applied, to stop all live streaming from your church buildings for the time being.
It feels extremely hard to ask this of you, this week of all weeks. But you will know that some people believe that being in our churches to stream, even if it is accessed by a door in your home, is encouraging others to want to travel to their church, and for others to ask for churches to be open to the public. We would not want to be seen to encourage any laxity in the requirement to stay indoors except for designated reasons, because this will save lives, and protect the NHS.
We know this will be difficult for some and we want to thank you for all that you are doing, for the sacrifices you are making, along with the many others in the country at the moment, and for the way in which many have creatively streamed worship from your own homes. Beyond the cross, there is resurrection, as we journey together.
The London College of Bishops (7 April 2020)