Access to church buildings


On 5 May, the House of Bishops met to review the advice to clergy on the Church’s efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus and to protect the vulnerable and health services.

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 stage allowing very limited access to church buildings for activities such as streaming of services or private prayer by clergy [and other recognized leaders of worship] in their own parishes, so long as the necessary 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.

The House of Bishops agreed that the decision on the timing of when to implement the first stage should be made by individual Diocesan Bishops, depending on their local situation.

Stage 1 in the Diocese of Coventry

Bishop Christopher gives permission for the implementation of Stage 1, with immediate effect, subject to the following clarification of "limited access" and "precautions".

Limited Access

Access to church buildings for the purpose of private prayer by clergy or streaming/recording a service is limited to one person (plus another member of their household).

This one person will usually be the incumbent, or someone designated by the incumbent or area dean (such as a clergy colleague or reader).  If someone else is required (e.g. to hold a camera), it must be a member of this person's household.

They might want to consider locking the church door during such times in order to prevent other people from entering the building.

In a multi-parish benefice, the incumbent is encouraged to only access one church and to minimise their travel.

Precautions

The national Church of England team has issued guidance on praying and live streaming from church buildings (see the first FAQ on the Church of England website).

They have also issued more detailed advice regarding access to church buildings during lockdown.

Stages 2 and 3

Stages 2 and 3 are not yet being implemented.  This will happen when the Government permits, and the Church of England has issued further guidance.

Any questions of clarification?

Any questions of clarification or advice should be directed to your area dean in the first instance.  The area deans are in regular contact with each other and can also seek advice from Archdeacon Sue if required.  This will help to ensure a consistent approach across the diocese.

In anticipation of a further Government announcement this weekend, it would be helpful if any non-urgent questions could wait until Monday.