CORONAVIRUS: Our latest updates; the 'coronavirus compendium'; general information; links to resources Click here for more
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Last updated 26th October 2020

Coronavirus Compendium of advice and resources

This compendium of advice and resources is regularly updated. 

Staying in touch

The Diocese has a dedicated email address which is constantly monitored: The address is coronavirus@blackburn.anglican.org

Please email if:

  • You want advice or clarification
  • You are an Incumbent, Curate or Assistant/Associate Priest aged under 70 who is unwell or self-isolating (with the date you started self-isolating)
  • You have something to share about good practice in your parish
  • You have concerns and worries and need pastoral support or prayer

Until further notice a regular update by the Coronavirus Task Group is being sent out to all clergy and licensed lay ministers, church wardens, PCC secretaries, PCC treasurers and Vision Champions. This is currently our main method of communication to parishes and will be supplemented by occasional letters direct from Bishop's House when necessary. It is the 'go to' document for the latest updates. 

In addition, there are regular Sunday Services and weekly messages from the Bishops and Archdeacons, often involving contributors from parishes across our Diocese. They can be viewed on our Diocesan YouTube channel

National Church of England advice (regularly updated)

The Church of England has a dedicated Coronavirus area of its website that is updated regularly. Follow this link to read it. 

Via the link you will find a suite of documents on key topics. As of August 24, 2020 they cover the following:

  • Conducting public worship and legal questions on conducting public worship
  • Individual private prayer
  • Face coverings
  • Safer Churches – Helping public places to reopen safely
  • Holy Communion, baptisms, funerals, ordinations and consecrations, weddings, confirmation services and pastoral encounters
  • Mission and ministry with children and young people
  • Outdoor worship and churchyards; keeping church buildings clean; opening cathedral and church buildings to the public and opening church buildings for works to the building and interior*
  • Permissions for temporary works in churches and cathedrals
  • Pastoral support in the community including care homes
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Personal risk factors to clergy, church workers and volunteers
  • Safeguarding FAQs
  • Test and Trace

*(This combines access to church buildings for building maintenance and church and cathedral building access for construction work into a single guidance document)

Also via the link above, and as of August 24, 2020, in the FAQ section, you will also find guidance on:

  • Prayer and worship, including face coverings, live performances/singing, Holy Communion, liturgical resources and much more.
  • Life events: Funerals, weddings, baptisms and ordinations.
  • Community support work, eg foodbanks, blood donations and night shelters.
  • Fabric and building work, including building access; cleaning churches and giving access to builders for maintenance. 
  • Finance and governance, including PCCs, AGMS and giving financially to the church.
  • Schools, nurseries and youth provision, including use of church buildings by schools for worship and gatherings; children and young people's activities and rsources for starting up again in this context. 
  • General advice including for risk assessments; pointers for those at additional risk; safeguarding advice in a remote working context; collating 'test and trace' data; for church hall use; holding non-worship events in church buildings and much more. 

Churches reopening for public worship guidance (24/08/2020)

Re-opening of churches for public worship in a Covid-safe manner initially occurred in July. The Government advice has since been updated several times, most recently on August 14. It can always be found here.

Advice may change. If you are unsure of anything or want to make sure you have the latest advice always review the information via the link above first in conjunction with the information linked to below.  

The House of Bishops provided a response to the government guidelines when they were first announced and have continued to do so. The most recent update was on August 20 (version 2.3) and can be found here. This advice may change again and we will update the latest version asap when it does. But, if you are in any doubt please check the national CofE guidance page. Any recent updates to CofE advice will appear at the top of this page.  

The latest (version 5) risk assessment template from the national church, issued on August 6, 2020 can be found here. We will update this link asap if another version becomes available. 

Please note, there may be times when local or national government advice is amended to respond to the local situation. In those situations the advice for churches may change accordingly. Please check the Coronavirus Task Group briefings in the first instance for the latest information. 

Read all information issued carefully, noting the following:

  • The words ‘should’ and ‘must’ are used very carefully. Should means you are strongly advised. Must means that it has the force of law.
  • The only significant area of difference with our guidance last week involves the use of books or hymnbooks. These can be distributed as long as they are quarantined for 48 hours afterwards.

Remember that the Government has placed churches in a privileged position by allowing us to break the general rules which do not allow more than two households to occupy the same internal space, so it is important to respect the guidance that allows this.

  • Note: The lifting of the prohibition on worship brought to an end the legal dispensation concerning the obligation to offer Sunday worship within each Benefice and this canonical duty therefore returned as of July 4, 2020. 

We are aware that there are churches who, for very good reasons, are having to delay the re-opening of worship, but it is important to set a direction of travel. To that end we advise parishes not yet at the point of starting worship as follows:

  • Have a plan with target dates and share this on your website, on A Church Near You and with a notice on the church door.
  • You can always start small for example with a midweek celebration of the Eucharist or with public recitation of the Daily Office (something which has been joyfully rediscovered in many parishes who have streamed or zoomed it during the lockdown).

If you have not yet commenced public worship then, as of the end of July, Bishop Julian needs to be made aware. Email him direct or send a message to the Coronavirus email. 

On June 30 the national church provided a form of words for PCC resolutions about delays to the re-commencement of public worship. As of August 24 the guidance has not been amended further. It can be accessed here.

Church of England coronavirus signage, banners and posters for use in churches and church-related buildings

There are posters and signs available on the national Church of England website, provided free of charge for churches to use in and around their buildings.

Posters can be printed at home or sent to a professional printer for larger sizes. Floor stickers and pull-up banners should be sent to a professional printer. Please ensure your floor is suitable for floor stickers before applying them. Visit this page for more and to download. 

Guidance for churches on work with children and young people, including risk assessment form (downloadable)  (15/09/2020)

As we all know the work with children and young people is vital for the health and flourishing of our churches. Now that schools have returned, many churches are keen to resume their children and youth provision.

The Diocese of Blackburn strongly encourages churches to start to restart their ministry to the young. The current situation in the UK is fluid and some areas of the Diocese are still under significant restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid 19, but with careful planning and consideration we believe it is possible to plan and deliver effective children’s and youth work.

This can increasingly be face to face but may also be a hybrid model of digital meetings and face to face sessions. This section has been fully updated as of September 15, 2020 and tries to bring together advice from The Church of England and other bodies to help churches restart their work.

The advice is generic, and we are aware that each church is different and so would encourage you seek advice if you need it from the diocesan youth and children’s advisers who are:


Churches will be aware of the general Church of England guidance here (and the information below refers back to this regularly. It covers most things but there are some specific issues which follow that are particular to our Diocese or that we wanted to further explore. 

In addition, please click here for webinar slides from a national Church of England session which contain links to various organisations that may help in planning.


Clergy in schools

Before considering leading worship in schools or calling into the school, clergy should contact the Headteacher to assess whether this is appropriate. The current level of risk and the school risk assessment will impact on the decision and may change with local circumstances. At present schools are advised to keep visitors to a minimum and to avoid 'bubbles' being accessed by others.

Special services and school invites

This term would normally see a number of key events where church and school would come together. Harvest, Remembrance and the Advent and Christmas season all would usually be opportunities for shared work.

For celebrations such as Harvest it is unlikely that a joint service will be possible, but as the term progresses it may be that rates of infection decrease and allow greater shared services.

In all these cases, church and school should work closely together to discuss what is possible and what alternatives might exist that allow the school and church communities to come together for worship. This might be through live streaming, recording worship or other creative solutions. Providing both organisations can operate within the guidance and safely, anything is possible.

For Christmas events, it may be possible to plan for a potential face-to-face service but to have a ‘plan B’ ready for if the current restrictions remain or restrictions increase. Planning for what might be but be prepared for the worst-case scenario is perhaps the best way forward.

Using school buildings for church purposes

At present this is complex and falls between various sets of guidance. It is likely that this will mostly be the guidance for worship but could also fall under the out of school setting guidance. Ultimately this depends on whether the school headteacher is happy with out of hours use by a third party or whether they judge it to pose a risk too far.

The decision is an operational one of safety (despite lettings being a governor responsibility) and churches will need to respect the decisions that headteachers make to keep the schools running efficiently at this difficult time.

Any decision is likely to depend on local settings and the local Covid rate as well as how the school can be deep cleaned in readiness for the school community after use. Schools may well be worried about how to pay for deep cleans and whether a volunteer cleaning force would meet the school’s requirements, which may also impede the use of school buildings. The best advice would be to contact the headteacher.

Under-5s work and toddler groups

Compiled by Sarah Earnshaw

Guidance for under 5s can be found on the Early Years Alliance website, however as this organisation primarily focuses on formal childcare settings, rather than church groups led by volunteers, they have interpreted some of the government guidelines differently to what the current advice is from The Church of England.

Continuing the theme of toddler groups, I am sure some of you have also been questioned about if soft play is allowed to reopen why not toddler groups. I came across this guidance about soft play which may help us explain to people.

It include 3.5 pages on the cleaning requirements for equipment and also says all role-play toys should be removed or considered single use and so is not really realistic for a toddler group to replicate.

Bumps and Babies

One thing that I’ve asked churches to consider very carefully in their risk assessment is that pregnant women are considered to be more vulnerable than the general population and so any group aimed specifically at bumps needs to be very mindful of this.

I’ve also asked them to think about the requirement to wear face coverings inside and whether Mums would want to wear a face covering for an extended period of time (as they’d be required to) in front of their baby who would therefore not be able to see their facial expressions.

Whilst in theory a group with bumps and non-movers could meet and socially distance, here are some questions you might like to ask to help them decide what to do in their context that will comply with rules about social distancing, face coverings, hygiene, not serving food/drinks etc: 

What is the purpose of the group? 

  • Is it a worship session? – look at the guidance for worship
  • Is it a support group for new parents?  Pregnant women over 28 weeks are identified as clinically vulnerable.  BAME women living with multiple deprivations are even more at risk.  So, it all depends on your target group (pregnant women or new parent), local ethnic mix and local infection rates.  The NCT website offers online antenatal classes until the end of October, with a hope to go in person from November if the Covid situation improves. But there is the caveat that classes will be online if they don’t think it’s safe to meet in person.   So, a helpful question might be is there a better way to gather new parents in your context? For example, through WhatsApp groups or a buddy scheme to introduce new parents to each other, or to someone in the church who is slightly further down the road in parenting?  New parents can then decide if they want to meet for a walk in the park (outdoors still better than indoors, but will be a challenge as autumn comes) or meet as two households in their own homes etc.  Face coverings don’t need to be worn outside and so conversations will be easier.  One other consideration is that the current advice for gatherings e.g. church services/kids’ groups is to be short. If you are organising a new parents’ session, please be mindful that it’s really hard to turn up to things on time with a new baby. A staggered start is essential, but you might want to encourage people to stay for only a certain time period. Then there is the consideration, what happens when the baby starts to cruise the room?  This can happen anywhere between four months to two years – it’s so varied.  What expectations does the group have for this scenario?  Best to work this out as a group in advance as it would be very upsetting to be ejected from the group if your baby starts to flout the social distancing rules and other parents/carers are unhappy with this.
  • Is it to facilitate better bonding between parent and new baby?  (E.g. a baby massage session held in your church.) If this is the case, then take note of guidance on wearing face coverings inside and ask if parents want to wear a face covering for an extended period of time (as they’d be required to) in front of their baby; who would therefore not be able to see their facial expressions? For the first couple of months of a baby’s life, their eyesight is developing, and they can only see the distance between being held and a carer’s face and those facial expressions are so important in that time of bonding. There are always the face masks with the clear screen over the mouth, but that is still second best.  Therefore, a session like this might be better for the baby if done at home but could be done as a group through Zoom/Teams. NCT have some good advice on what to do inside with your baby here

Who is the session for?

  • Those already inside your church community? Who in your church can facilitate new parents getting to know each other safely?
  • Missional for those on the fringe of your community? I think this is much harder in our current climate. One option is friendship evangelism and encouraging the new parents in your church to be outward focussed and include a friend with a baby who might not be a part of your church, to be included in a small group of new parents. You’ll be surprised at how many questions about christenings arise and how to celebrate the birth of a new family member.

Advice for churches on children’s/youth groups and Sunday worship activities

The Church of England guidance produced by a group of children’s and youth advisers (including Ben Green) is very comprehensive and answers many of the questions that have arisen. It can be found here. 

For youth work, some additional guidance can be found at from the National Youth Association here. 

First and foremost, if churches wish to restart any kind of groups with children and young people face to face it is important to risk assess the impact on the children and young people and on the wider congregation.

Risk assessments

A risk assessment document with prompts is available to download here for churches to use in drawing up their own assessments and to help with thinking and planning.

A significant consideration regarding the starting children’s and youth groups is the Covid rates in your locality. Obviously where rates are high or where there is a local outbreak the risk assessment will need to reference it. It is important to understand that risk assessments are dynamic and need to be constantly referred to.

In all children’s and youth work churches will needs to ensure

  • The area used is thoroughly cleaned before and after use
  • Safeguarding ratios are maintained, and social distance applied. The combination of the two means that the church would need to manage who has access to different parts of the building to ensure the children don’t young people don’t mix with adults inadvertently (toilet facilities being such a potential problem) and therefore increase the risks of transmission
  • Drop off and collection systems ensure that there is no potential for distancing rules to be compromised.
  • Groups should have stable ‘bubbles’ that don’t mix
  • Group sizes are not more than the advised number of 15

Further guidance detail is in The Church of England national guidance linked to above

All Age Worship

All age worship may be one of the best ways to engage with children and young people in face to face sessions. It reduces the risk assessment to one for the main service and as family units can be together allows all to be part of a service together. It is important to remind people that the thirty number refers to people not to family units and so any gathering will still be small in nature and may feel more of a small group rather than a service

Messy Church

Messy church has produced some ideas and guidance on how to restart with face to face sessions. These can be found on the official Messy Church website here

Bell ringing (24/08/2020)

Bell ringing has been permitted again since July 4. Ringers should wear masks and keep social distance which will limit the number of ringers in most towers.

Before re-commencing bell-ringing the Incumbents and Wardens should be consulted and a risk assessment conducted.

For the latest advice (most recently updated on August 21, 2020) click here to go to the coronavirus advice page on Central Council of Church Bell Ringers website.

Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities (24/08/2020)

The government has provided extensive guidance about multi-purpose community facilities eg community centres, village halls and (by definition) church halls. It was most recently updated on August 14, 2020 and everything you need is here

The government states that the communal nature of these facilities also makes them places that are vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus. 

This information is for those managing multi-use community facilities. It signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these spaces, in line with the government’s roadmap to ease the existing measures to tackle COVID-19.

We would draw your particular attention to the following sections of the guidance:

  • Section 2 Core principles for safely reopening community facilities
  • Section 3a: Early years and youth provision
  • Section 3b: Voluntary sector and other service provision
  • Section 3c: Recreation, leisure and social gatherings
  • Section 3d: Meetings and civic functions
  • Section 3f: Places of worship

Community ministry (24/08/2020)

“Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

Serving the community is one of the core parts of ministry. But how we provide such ministry must change, at least on a temporary basis, during the pandemic in order that we can protect the most vulnerable in our society.

Visit the 'Resources: Community Projects' section of our website for more advice and guidance and also see the FAQs section of the national church website for the latest advice on supporting community projects during the pandemic. 

Confirmations (24/08/2020)

The nature of Confirmation Services in our Diocese means that it is still not safe for them to re-commence at present. 

Confirmations in July and August 2020 were cancelled and confirmation services will not recommence in the Diocese until January 2021 at the earliest. 

Rev. Sam Cheesman, Bishop's Chaplain, wrote to all parishes in July informing them of the decision. You can read the letter here

In his letter Sam said: "We are very sorry to cancel the confirmations for this year, but hopefully it will lead to a larger group of candidates next year and even bigger celebrations.

"If there is any reason why confirmation might be seen as essential this year, please do get in touch with me directly."

(Sam's email is chaplain@bishopofblackburn.org.uk)

Local lockdowns (03/09/2020)

An assessment of how local lockdown measures map on deaneries and parishes can be found here

DBF managed properties (24/08/2020)

To increase social distancing and limit contact we introduced a new protocol earlier this year to help manage and maintain our repairs and maintenance service. Please follow the link to the this page in the 'Resources: For Clergy' section of the website for more information.

Board of Education resources for children and young people (24/08/2020)

The Board of Education's website and social media pages have lots of resources for children, teenagers, for RE and for collective and family worship. A small selection are highlighted here.

You've Got the Power' Holiday Club Activity eBook

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.

To earn each badge there is a food activity; a science activity with its own prediction sheet; outdoor activity; creative, getting active and so much more.

Each week comes with a handy cheat sheet for the responsible grown up which includes fun facts, exclusive how to videos and special Pinterest boards full of inspiration. 

Indoor and Outdoor Summer Activity sheets

These are FREE downloadable activity sheets for families to complete in what ever order they'd like. Each sheet contains 10 activities, that's 10 for outdoor and 10 for indoor. Creating memories and sharing our faith together at home. How many can they complete?

Weekly@ We're All in This Together Home Version

There is summer special of our Weekly@ ebulletin (last year there was a Summer Explorers Forest Church Special which is and still available to download).

For 2020 there is a special 'At Home' version filled with devotionals, activities, songs, games and more. All FREE. Find out more here

Occasional offices (weddings, baptisms and funerals) (24/08/2020)

Follow the links below to the very latest advice: 

  • Weddings in church are permitted with a maximum number of 30 people in the church building. The latest information can be found here
  • Baptisms are permitted limited to 30 people in the church building unless as part of public worship where the social-distanced capacity of the venue will limit the number of people present. Emergency baptisms can take place at home or hospital, subject to strict hygiene precautions and with social distancing. Updated CoE advice can be found here: Baptisms (updated)
  • Funerals will be permitted to happen in church. Updated CoE advice can be found here Funerals (updated). 

Meanwhile, the Liturgical Commission has produced additional resources which can be found by visiting the Resources: For Clergy section of our website.

It is possible that several of the family will be in self isolation during the initial days after a COVID19 death and possibly at the time of the funeral. Further information can be found by visiting this link to COVID19 page on the Resources: For Clergy section of our website.

Decisions on whether to offer occasional offices (and the socially distanced capacity of each church) will be made by each church/parish leadership taking account of the context and guidance. We appreciate there will therefore be differences in what can be offered in each church.

Parish finances (24/08/2020)

We are aware that many parish clergy, churchwardens,  treasurers and PCC Members (as charity trustees) will be concerned about the effect of prolonged church closures on parish finances. 

Please go to the COVID19 page in the Resources: Parish Finances section of our website for the latest advice and guidance.

Parish governance (24/08/2020)

There are many implications for how we maintain and enable our institutional life to continue nationally, as a diocese and in parish. These notes are intended to offer guidance to help you,  the ‘living stones‘ (1 Peter 2:5) to be the Church in our parishes.

Please go to the COVID19 page in the Resources: Parish administration and governance section of our website for the latest advice and guidance.

Pastoral visiting (30/09/2020) 

Pastoral support for individuals is an important part of role of the church.

The situation continues to change regularly and face to face pastoral care should only be undertaken if seen as essential and where the risks of doing so to both the person being visited and the person doing the visit have been carefully considered and appropriately managed.

For the very latest (updated September 30) information and advice on pastoral visiting go to the  COVID19 page on the Resources: For Clergy section of our website.

Prayer and liturgy resources (24/08/2020)

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak prayer and liturgy resources continue to be produced and made available here on the national CofE website.  

In addition, there is an Order of Service for prayer and worship at home made available each week here and produced by Rev. Neil Kelley from St Laurence's in Chorley. 

We also have prayers available to be said by a family or carer at end of life. Click here for those. 

Safeguarding (including domestic abuse risk) (24/08/2020)

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. 

Social and digital media use, including supporting congregations and people exploring faith online during the pandemic (02/10/2020)

Our Being Witnesses Manager, Joy Rushton and the Diocesan Communications Manager, Ronnie Semley, have collaborated on a report looking broadly at digital engagement across the Diocese during the first six months of lockdown. 

The report, seen 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 examines some of the wonderful digital engagement that has been happening across the Diocese since lockdown began in March; examines levels of digital engagement in more detail and looks to the future. Read it here. 


As reflected in the report linked to above, 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 want to advise against any use of social media which may promote upset, angst or discord at this time. 

During lockdown you may have been producing 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 page in the Resources: Communications section of our website you will find the following (with more being added regularly):

  • Local and national digital resources
  • Digital training material (including a brand new course developed by retired BBC Producer Norman Ivison who attends St James' Clitheroe)
  • Social media best practice tips compiled by Ronnie Semley, Diocesan Communications Manager and further social media insights from Lindsay Wright, Digital Media and Resources Lead in the Diocesan Board of Education
  • Using technology and copyright advice

As church buildings begin to reopen, it is also worth considering what provision you wish to make available online to enable those members of your congregation who may still be shielding or unable to join in person. 

Many churches have reported substantial numbers of people engaging online 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 page in the Resources: Communications section of our website for further advice. 

Test and Trace (24/08/2020)

The latest national Church of England advice is here for churches to assist in keeping records of service attendees and visitors as part of the government 'test and trace' initiative.

Templates:

  • Data consent form here
  • Privacy notice here
  • On-line privacy notice here
  • Place of work 'action cards' from Public Health England are also available for download here

More on looking after yourself in lockdown (26/10/2020)

'Mental Health and Faithfulness in an Age of Anxiety'; online briefing

The National Deaneries Network is holding an online seminar/briefing very soon for clergy and laity, entitled 'Mental Health and Faithfulness in an Age of Anxiety'. 

Presented by Rev. Rob Merchant, Tutor and Director of St Mellitus College, Chelmsford, it will take place on November 11, from 7.30pm to 9pm. 

The event will help you to recognise when something is not right; will give advice on enabling the exploration of mental well-being as well as information about further support. 

More details about the seminar and about Rob; plus the booking details you need are all on this page of the National Deaneries Network website


Early on in the pandemic we offered a few pieces of work aimed at helping us to look after ourselves and others in light of the inevitable associated distress.

Much of this advice remains just as relevant and helpful now that we have moved out of the acute phase of the pandemic. However, while we remain in some form of lockdown, the nature of the challenge we face has changed to one of a much more chronic nature.

We recently marked six months since the lockdown began in March. New Government restrictions are expected to be in place, in one form or another, for another six months. The ability to cope, fuelled solely by adrenaline and caffeine, ceased long time ago.

It is abundantly clear we are not going to be able to ‘white-knuckle’ our way through this. Any notion that we would be ‘back to normal’ and ‘out the other side’ sometime soon has gone. In its place is an ever-present, gnawing, low-level uncertainty – perhaps even stress or anxiety.

When this kind of feeling continues to bubble away under the surface for so long there can be a number of negative effects.

The following, written by Revd Andy Meeson. Vicar, St Johns Leyland, who is a member of the Coronavirus Task Group, aims to highlight some of these and encourage us towards establishing sustainable rhythms of life that will enable us and our churches to not only to survive, but even thrive during this time.


Fatigue. One issue of dealing with constant emotional flux and uncertainty is sheer fatigue – whether physical, emotional, psychological, compassion, etc. What sets the current experience apart from earlier in the pandemic is that many churches have regained some of their ‘busyness’. We are beginning to re-start many of our original ministries (in new and innovative ways) perhaps on top of new things we discovered earlier on in the lockdown. We do so, of course, with the added complication of ever-changing restrictions and a list of seemingly endless decisions to be made. We must recognise how fatiguing this is in ourselves and others. Allow for the fact that it may take far less than usual to tire us out. We may need to adopt different rhythms of life and ministry that are more sustainable and resilient in light of this. Take a break and rest without feeling guilty about it. Also encourage others in your team and congregation to do the same.


Isolation. Many people living on their own are already dreading a very lonely winter and Christmas. Young families struggling to cope with the burdens of childcare are worried how they will keep going for another 6 months without help from others. Grandparents are missing grandchildren. Friends are missing socialising. The list goes on. We must be honest about the reality of this enforced isolation. As a church family we can and must provide support and community for one another as we plan for and maintain new ways to connect with and support one another.


Stress. When we carry around low-level feelings of unease and confusion it can be easy for things to ‘build up’. Small things quickly add up to become very big things sometimes leading to surprisingly dramatic or volatile responses. Add to this the fact that much of our present ministry carries a greater sense of risk as we find ourselves exempt from some of the restrictions governing other areas of life. This brings a great sense of responsibility which can be a challenging burden to bear. We can sometimes help ourselves by limiting the amount and sources of information we consume regarding Covid. In addition, this is a good opportunity to recognise our creaturely dependence upon God. We can only deal with and control so much. Try not to pre-empt or anticipate potential issues too far down the line – sufficient for the day is the trouble thereof.


Selfishness. When faced with the current circumstances, we can tend to become rather introspective and curved in on ourselves. When we are so acutely aware of the difficulties in our own lives, it can become difficult to notice, or even think to look for, the needs of others. This may be the needs of our church family or wider community. As those called to imitate the love of Christ we must be especially on the defence against such tendencies. As we bring our own needs to Christ and experience his abundant provision and satisfaction, let us learn once again the “freedom of self-forgetfulness” as we seek to love others.


Conflict. As more and more of our church activities are re-commencing in some form or another, this inevitably means we are cooperating with others more. This is of course an immense joy, but also a challenge as imperfect (and stressed out) people can easily rub one another up the wrong way. When experiencing difficulties ourselves, it can be easy to fail to see other people’s perspective or we can impute uncharitable motives or assumptions to the actions of others. We must be careful to think the best of one another and seek to be ministers of reconciliation and peace in our communities. This will mean creating an environment of honesty and forgiveness, where accounts are kept short and grace and understanding abounds.


Despondency. There hasn’t been much good news recently. In addition, as we journey on together through these current trials, we will no doubt become acutely aware of the weaknesses, imperfections, and limitations in ourselves, others and our community. This is often an uncomfortable, painful and messy experience. However, this is also frequently the place where God’s grace is most wonderfully at work. It was in and through the darkest moment of human history that our salvation was won. Therefore, in these current dark times there is ample hope that God is at work building his kingdom and transforming us into the likeness of his Son. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)

 

 

Ronnie Semley; (page regularly reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis)