Last updated 17th August 2021
A message from your Coronavirus Task Group...
This compendium of advice and resources is generated and managed by the Diocesan Coronavirus Task Group, chaired by Bishop Philip.
The Task Group ensures this compendium is updated as regularly as possible. Dates after headings indicate when most recent updates to the sections have taken place. Follow the links above in the grey panel to go straight to the information you are after; or
IMPORTANT NOTE: Since all major restrictions were lifted on July 19 we have completely revised this compendium to remove information no longer relevant; keeping any specific information that is important to still be aware of course. In doing this we also retained past information posted to our website that has not gone out of date. A simple example of the latter is information/advice about good mental/physical health. Any information no longer relevant to the current situation has been archived. If anyone wishes to refer to archived information for any reason, they should email the coronavirus email to request it.
Please bear with us. Even now, events are fast-moving even at this stage in the pandemic and sometimes the latest information may take a bit longer to appear here. However the 'go to' place for the very latest news is always the regular Coronavirus Task Group Briefing sent on email and also available on this website here.
All information promoted in those emails is the most up to date we can give you and will find its way into this compendium as soon as we can transfer it.
One more important thing regarding dates: If you see a recent date nearby to a date which is earlier, this does not mean the advice is not relevant; rather it means it hasn't had to change in the period that has elapsed since first being added. We will always remove anything not relevant asap so, by definition, anything on this page or linked to from this page is current.
The Diocese still has a dedicated email address which is regularly monitored: The address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Please email if:
An email briefing is still being sent regularly by the Coronavirus Task Group to all clergy and licensed lay ministers, churchwardens, PCC secretaries, PCC treasurers and Vision Champions. This is our main method of communication to parishes about the pandemic and parish response to it.
The briefing will continue to be supplemented by occasional letters direct from Bishop's House if and when necessary.
Meanwhile, the Parish Update ebulletin returned a few months ago, after a period of suspension at the peak of the pandemic, and continues to appear every two weeks. During August a Task Group briefing will only be issued if absolutely necessary and Parish Update is taking a brief break and will return on September 8.
Meanwhile, archived weekly messages from the Bishops and Archdeacons and archived past online services are still available to view on our Diocesan YouTube channel.
We are now in the post-July 19 period when all restrictions have been lifted but caution is still being urged by the Government. The Coronavirus Task Group continues to issue briefings to parishes. You can find all task group briefings here.
There is increasing cause for optimism as the vaccines demonstrate their effectiveness.
So now could be the time to dust off those plans for summer and for autumn and think what our three Unlock headings might look like in your Parish. More about Unlock here and watch a special video here.
How will you make space for people to lament what they have been through? How will you give thanks for those places where God has been especially at work in the past twelve months? In what areas might the mission of your parish develop as we seek to satisfy a new hunger for the Gospel?
There are however two things to bear in mind through all this: First, some people might be nervous if all restrictions are dropped at once. Some parishes are coming up with their own internal roadmaps to withdraw restrictions gradually and so build up people’s confidence.
Second, whilst some are raring to go, many clergy and lay leaders are feeling weary and run down. There is a degree to which the trauma of the past year is catching up and it was striking how many people described a listlessness on our recent clergy study days.
Don’t feel bad about this. Instead make some space for yourself and make room to attend to your own spiritual wellbeing. If things aren’t getting any better, tell someone.
The standing ovation for the developers of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine at Wimbledon reminded us the huge impact that the vaccines have had in pulling us out of the worst of the crisis.
The covid-19 vaccine is now available to all over 18s and it may be available to over 12s at some point in the future. Please do keep encouraging your people to take advantage of this.
Public worship is now permitted once again!
From July 19, congregational singing is permitted (hallelujah!) and there is no limit on the size of choirs. Regulations on social distancing and face coverings are withdrawn.
However, there will be real wisdom in phasing these measures in, partly for public health reasons and partly so that our people feel confident in attending worship. The next steps for each church will be challenging for some, balancing embracing freedom from national restrictions, and mitigating local risks.
The way forward for each congregation will look and feel different. Some will feel able to return to all aspects of worship quickly others will feel the need to slowly phase in changes.
It is important to take time to reflect on this as the parish starts to consider how to take the next steps, and a recent study has shown that people entering a space feel considerably more comfortable when they can clearly see what risk-mitigating factors are in place and understand that they will be followed.
The evidence is that local churches are taking intelligent and informed decisions about phasing out measures whilst offering reassurance to those who may be anxious and are using risk assessment tools to do so. It is unsurprising that Blackburn clergy and lay leaders are once again rising so admirably and positively to the challenge. Thank you for that.
To help your thinking we have taken the 'hands, face, space' strapline and provided you with some questions to consider:
The new emphasis moves us away from rules towards personal responsibility and this creates decision making challenges for the local church which may feel even more difficult than shutting down.
There is also a risk of local disagreements. However our clergy and lay leaders have become incredibly adept in recent months at acting wisely, intelligently and as local circumstances determine.
Please make sure that decisions are made with lay leaders such as churchwardens and listen to the mood of your congregation. The resources from the national church should also be of great help.
If you have any ongoing questions about the above, or anything else, please do continue to use our advice compendium and email the coronavirus email using email@example.com
How will you help people to understand your decisions around managing risk and keeping people safe Whatever approach build in regular reviews that consider:
New detailed guidance from the Church of England can be viewed here.
Lateral Flow Tests are still available free to every household and can be ordered here. Please don’t stop testing yourself regularly, especially prior to Sunday mornings. Kits are also freely available from numerous places including pharmacies.
Churches are still strongly advised to keep a record of attendance. Updated advice on test and trace can be seen here.
For the hardcore coronavirus guidance groupies out there, the official advice on places of worship from HM Government can be seen here. Whilst all formal regulations have been removed, Government also urges wise and careful decisions as already outlined above.
The Church of England advice is very clear that our worship should be open to all and so churches should NOT restrict access to worship to those who have not been double vaccinated. There is a Q and A on the issue here.
The past few months have been ferociously difficult for our schools as they have coped with numerous burst Covid bubbles leading to the loss of precious time in school for hundreds of thousands of children.
One of our school chaplains described the time leading up to the end of restrictions as the worst period of the whole pandemic.
Schools have now broken up for the summer holidays. Head Teachers and their staff continue to particularly need our prayers and support at this time; prayers for rest and relaxation and for a good return to schools again in a few weeks time.
The Board of Education's website and social media pages have lots of resources to explore as well to keep children entertained and active during the holidays and see the next section below for more suggestions.
Please also prayer for pupils and for their families that they may recover from the disruption to studies while getting some rest and having a joyful break this summer.
Simon Corner, another of our chaplains, at St Michael’s High School in Chorley, has written the following brief reflection ...
“Schools have largely remained open during the lockdowns which has meant the regular pressures of school have been added to by those of the Covid crisis.
"Uncertainty, anxiety, lack of social contact, anger, illness, grief, loss, the challenges of learning at home and students being told they are a lost generation are just some of the issues we continued to face in school.
In the midst of this Chaplains in schools have been striving to remind people that God knows and cares, He is with us, there is Hope in Christ, and that this is an opportunity to take stock and consider what we value in our society today. We’ve had to develop lots of new IT skills,
as well as learning about filming and copyright laws.
Pastoral conversations with both staff and students have increased massively as has the range of issues. Looking forward I pray we can continue to bring a message of certainty and hope in Jesus, as well as keeping some of the positive changes in society that we have seen as a result of Covid.”
Throughout the pandemic the Board of Education's website and social media pages have had lots of resources for children, teenagers, for RE and for collective and family worship which are still continually being updated.
Post-July 19 these continue to be relevant and useful for parishes and schools and a small sample selection are highlighted here, courtesy of Lindsay Wright, Digital Resources Officer.
The Youth Work State of Mind Podcast is for anyone involved or interested in Christian Youth Ministry. Expect some fun, games, challenges and practical discussion as we dive into everything the ocean of youth ministry has to offer.
To keep up to date with the podcast and for ways to interact with each episode, follow us on Instagram.
This activity eBook is a fully downloadable purchase. It contains six weeks' worth of activities for children to complete so they can earn six special badges. It could be a great gift to your families who are in transition from primary to secondary if you're not able to give them a physical gift.
Find out more here. You've Got the Power follows six incredible children in the Bible, and through fun activities and challenges we can learn what they did, discover new skills for ourselves and celebrate that we've all got the power to do amazing things for God no matter what our age.
Youth Camp has gone online with a range of resources and materials to create a youth camp from home for young people. The pack will contain ‘how to’ videos and pre-recorded talks so you can explore the Bible verse Micah 6:8, PLUS activity plans and an interactive scavenger hunt. More details can be found on the Board of Education website.
Many parishes are starting to re-establish toddler groups and prayer is vital in this task. As part of the Toddler Group National Month of Prayer in June the Board of Education has posted on its social media platforms every day and these remain for further use post-June. For more details Blackburn Diocese Board of Education | Facebook
New Longton Parish church produced an unlock plan for their parish which others may wish to refer to a use as a template adapted to their own circumstances where appropriate of course. It's available in word and pdf format for review and download here:
Some documents on The Church of England national website remain useful even post-July 19 and links are below...
On the national website coronavirus landing page post-July 19 you can still find answers to a whole host of FAQs which are regularly updated. Visit the FAQ section directly by clicking here.
Along with other activities bell ringing is now permitted and you can click here to go to the coronavirus advice page on Central Council of Church Bell Ringers website for some common sense advice as we continue to take precautions as necessary.
National guidance has now been withdrawn post-July 19 however while cases are high and rising, the Government advice remains that everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious.
This is why we are keeping in place key protections on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You should also follow the measures in the working safely guidance.
We are aware that many parish clergy, churchwardens, treasurers and PCC Members (as charity trustees) will continue to be concerned about the effect that prolonged church closures during the pandemic had on parish finances.
Please go to this page in the Resources: Parish Finances section of our website for the latest advice and guidance as we emerge and restrictions are lifted post-July 19, as well as reviewing the headings which follow which have links to further resources. The advice here remains relevant at this time and provides many practical points to assist.
You may remember the Diocese collectively participated in the 'Call to Pray and Give' late last year. This was a Diocesan-led initiative to boost parish funds at the end of this very challenging year, to enable current levels of stipendiary mission and ministry to continue.
Most of the Call and Give resources on this page are useable at any time and they will remain available on this page to support parishes.
The Ecclesiastical Insurance Group launched a new addition to its fundraising hub a while back called ‘Fundraising in a Box.’ This includes:
The toolkit ‘Fundraising in a Box' can be pre ordered by visiting this website. Once ordered, the toolkit will be posted to the churches within the next couple of months.
As we consider the changes taking place in society as a result of the pandemic one thing does not change; the need to consider best practice in safeguarding is as important now as it has ever been.
Post-July 19 and restrictions being lifted there is still a Safeguarding Covid-19 FAQs on the national church website for any relevant advice. And local safeguarding resources, advice and contact details are available via the safeguarding pages of this website under the 'Safeguarding' tab on the homepage.
It has been good to watch how social media platforms have been used in new and exciting ways to engage with communities.
Social media can, as we know, also be used for harm and we would always want to advise against any use of social media which may promote upset, angst or discord.
During lockdown you may have produced services on YouTube (live or recorded); you might have been holding all kinds of meetings on FaceTime, Skype, Zoom etc and you may have discovered new ways of 'being church' in the digital space.
We have all kinds of advice to help you be as effective as you want to be when it comes to digital outreach. Via this COVID19 digital resources page in the Resources: Communications section of our website you will find the following information and advice which remains relevant even after July 19 as it contains much in the way of practical help in terms of 'doing church' online:
Many churches have reported substantial numbers of people engaging online during lockdowns who may only come at Christmas, Easter or not at all.
This has certainly been the experience when looked at across the national church and anecdotally we are also hearing reports of this happening across our own Diocese.
So how can they be included in ongoing activities? The Opening the Doors project is the national Church's initiative providing resources to help encourage people into churches, when it is safe to do so of course.
You can also read more advice from the national Digital Team here.
And remember to follow the link to the COVID19 digital resources page in the Resources: Communications section of our website for further advice.
Meanwhile, at the height of the pandemic our Being Witnesses Manager, Joy Rushton and the Diocesan Communications Manager, Ronnie Semley, collaborated on a report looking broadly at digital engagement across the Diocese during the first six months of lockdown.
The report, reviewed by the Bishop's Leadership Team and Bishop's Council, also includes a specific section on the digital work of the Board of Education, written by Lindsay Wright, the Board's Digital Media and Resources Lead.
The report examined some of the wonderful digital engagement that has been happening across the Diocese; examines levels of digital engagement in more detail and looks to the future. Read it here.
Across the period of the pandemic your Coronavirus Task Group has sent an assortment of advice to parishes about how to support others, as well as being kind to yourself and looking after your own mental health and general wellbeing.
We gathered all this advice together for downloading into this one helpful section here in our coronavirus compendium and we will be keeping this section live post-July 19 as there is much is the way of good common sense advice which is useful at any time ...
'Covid Care' ... this article is by Rev. Andy Meeson. In it he looks at dealing with fatigue, isolation, stress, selfishness, conflict and despondency.
'Creating a new routine' ... by Rev. Susan Salt. Looking at ways to change your daily routine to adapt to the pandemic.
Mental Health reflections from The Church of England ... advice from the national church; also includes links to other websites includes NHS guidance and the Mental Health Foundation
Mental Wellbeing and Coronavirus ... by Rev. Susan Salt. Looking at how our state of wellbeing – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual – is not only dependent upon whether or not we catch Coronavirus, but also very much related to its associated and ongoing effects in our lives.
Stay Healthy in Mind, Body and Spirit ... speaks for itself
Ronnie Semley - last updated July 2021