Further Pastoral Guidance from the Bench of Bishops
Effective until further notice
Since our pastoral guidance dated 31 March was distributed, Welsh Government Regulations regarding funerals have been amended. In light of this, we have also amended the “Funerals” section of our pastoral guidance, and this document contains the up-to-date version.
Church buildings: towards re-opening
All church buildings remain closed until further notice. This means churches must not be open for public worship or solitary prayer.
Detailed discussions are taking place with Welsh Government over the possible re-opening of churches led by the Archbishop with the Faith Communities Forum.
A protocol for re-opening is being developed by Welsh Government in the context of the specific legislative context in Wales.
This protocol will inform guidance from the Church in Wales on how churches can be re-opened safely. This guidance will be a practical tool to help you plan your future opening and mitigate risks of transmission of Covid-19. The guidance will centre on procedures for social distancing, hygiene and premises cleaning.
When the law permits, we envisage a gradual opening of churches based on a clear demonstration of compliance with the protocol and guidance – our primary concern is for the health of those that will use our churches again.
Welsh Government has confirmed that there will be no change to the current rules in Wales before the First Minister’s next announcement on the 18th June.
Use of buildings
Worship has been recorded and broadcast both commendably and effectively from parsonages. Whilst the Welsh Government Regulations now permit a cleric to record or broadcast a service (without a congregation) from church buildings, the desirability and advisability of doing so will vary between different contexts. Individual Bishops will advise further on this matter within their respective dioceses and any such events should be held only in strict accordance with those diocesan guidelines, or with the explicit permission of the diocesan Bishop.
The Welsh Government Regulations also permit clergy to visit their churches, and for other church officers and volunteers to visit churches only to undertake a voluntary or charitable duty, where it is not reasonably practicable to undertake that duty from home. It is therefore possible for essential and urgent site inspections to be undertaken by clerics, or by another person nominated by the Incumbent, Ministry/Mission Area Leader, Area Dean or Archdeacon. We ask that such visits are kept to an absolute minimum.
The use of church buildings for essential voluntary services (such as existing foodbanks, soup kitchens and homeless shelters) is permitted by the Welsh Government Regulations. Church buildings may also, upon the request of the Welsh Ministers or a local authority, be used to provide urgent public services. All reasonable measures should be taken to ensure that social distancing practices and other hygiene precautions are followed while those services are provided. Any new use of a church building for essential voluntary / public services should be expressly supported by the incumbent or Area Dean and the diocesan bishop.
Further guidance on the care and use of church buildings is being issued by the officers of the Representative Body. Visit: Covid 19 - Church buildings guidance
Clergy and others duly licensed or commissioned should exercise their ordinary pastoral ministry from a distance, by phone and online. Pastoral visits should only be undertaken where essential; such visits should generally be to the doorstep and social distancing measures must be scrupulously observed. Individual Bishops may issue more detailed advice to their clergy on what they consider to be ‘essential’ visits and may be consulted by clergy in any cases of doubt.
Funeral services should not take place in churches at the current time. In this case, we are going a step further than legally required, but we believe that the wellbeing of mourners, ministers and other church officers is best served by this additional precaution.
Funeral services at the graveside may continue. Clergy and others duly licensed may also preside at funerals in crematoria. However, the Bishops strongly urge ministers who fall into any of the UK Government’s categorisations of persons at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus not to undertake such ministry personally, and to delegate to colleagues instead. The full list of such categories is available here.
In accordance with the most recent Welsh Government Regulations, attendance at these funerals must now by limited to the person responsible for arranging the funeral and a small number of mourners (who may be accompanied by a carer if necessary) invited to attend by the person responsible for arranging the funeral. Our view remains that for funerals at the graveside the ‘small number’ should not exceed ten. Everyone attending a funeral must take all reasonable measures to stay two metres away from someone not of their household.
We encourage clergy to communicate carefully with funeral directors, and to confirm that the funeral director will assume responsibility for compliance with the Regulations, including inviting mourners to be present and ensuring that social distancing measures are observed. The funeral should be kept brief, omitting optional parts of the funeral service.
The Church in Wales permits fees due under Welsh Church (Burial Grounds) Act 1945 to be waived in exceptional circumstances. We are sure that clergy will be sensitive to the current circumstances, and clergy are reminded that they are permitted to waive their ministry fees if they consider it appropriate to do so.
It is likely that Welsh Government Regulations regarding funerals will be further amended over coming weeks, in which case our guidance will be reviewed and amended. In due course we will issue guidance on services of remembrance for use once we are able to return to our church buildings.
Marriages and marriage blessings can no longer take place in churches. If a couple wish to marry because of an extreme pastoral emergency, it may be possible to obtain an Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Licence for a wedding outside of a church, and clergy should discuss the matter with their diocesan bishop before then contacting the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Faculty Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Baptisms can no longer take place in churches, and should only take place at home, hospital, hospice or other location in case of an extreme pastoral emergency, where baptism may be administered by a lay person. The order for emergency baptism is appended below.
Prayer and Witness