Message from the Bishop—Pandemic Update—17 March 2020
Events have been fast moving these past few days, and emotions have been likewise fast moving. In order to demonstrate that we are keeping up with events and in tune with the concerns being voiced by clergy and laity about our practices , I am bringing forward change to Communion practice, and other changes, ahead of the first residential case of Coronavirus/COVID-19 in the region of our Diocese.
The COVID-19 webpage here on this site, offers detailed instruction and guidance on many aspects of church life, with special reference to liturgical practice.
This document, along with the “traffic lights” document (found at the bottom of the COVID-19 webpage), and some other documents relevant to church life are now published here and will be sent out to all on the database in tomorrow’s e-Life.
Perhaps the most significant change is that from today onwards, until further notice, there is to be Holy Communion in one kind only – consecrated bread for the congregation – with only the presiding priest consuming consecrated wine.
I have held back from a complete ban on the serving of food at church functions but the careful wording herein makes clear that food ought not to be served. I acknowledge the importance of food for our fellowship in Christ, but we are seeing restaurants and cafes closed down in different parts of the world and this trend, among other considerations re hygiene, means I cannot advise the serving of food. Only the serving of drinks.
There is an observable trend around the world which means we should expect that at some point our government is likely to prohibit gatherings of people and thus prohibit our meeting for worship. If and when that happens I hope that all parishioners in the Diocese will be willing to engage in new ways of being church: txts, emails, Facebook, live streaming.
In general terms I ask that we ready ourselves for significant pastoral care in the eventuality of services and other meetings being shut down. Email, phone calls, txts etc are all ways and means of not merely keeping in touch with one another but also asking whether we are OK, need help and be prayed for.
There will be special challenges caring for those with compromised personal health. We ourselves are likely as anxious and concerned about contracting the virus as anyone else in our ministry units. Many, many people are going to be hurting economically as recession (possibly even an actual Depression) kicks in. There will be much to do in our local communities. We need to care for each other. Together we can and will get through this crisis.
Thank you for all you do and for all you will be doing – I know many of you have already taken significant steps on the road to adaptation in respect of the pandemic.