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Last updated 7th July 2020

COVID19 Pastoral and liturgical advice and resources

Advice and ideas for clergy on pastoral and liturgical topics as lockdown eases

Administration of socially distanced Holy Communion advice (08/07/20)

Recognising that churches are now able to celebrate Holy Communion there may be members of a congregation for whom receiving Holy Communion is both necessary and essential but who are unable to come to church.

In such cases it is possible to provide Home Communion, but this must be done after careful consideration of the risks, particularly for the person receiving, who is likely to be either clinically vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable to COVID-19.  It is important that the person receiving Home Communion is sensitively made aware of the risks of having Communion at home and given the choice not to receive.

If Home Communion is provided it is essential that all the national advice around celebrating Holy Communion are followed scrupulously, administration is in one kind with no shared cup.  It is strong advised that all participants wear masks and the person conducting the home communion considers wearing gloves.  At the very least the person conducting the home communion must sanitise or wash their hands prior to starting the service and before administering the bread, even if they do not physically touch it and offer the bread on a patten.

The service should be kept as brief as possible whilst maintaining the integrity of the service.

Ideally the service should be conducted using a leaflet that has been prepared for Home Communion and has been adequately quarantined. Any leaflet used should be left in the person’s home and may be used by that individual again in the future if appropriate. There must be no sharing of bibles or liturgy books. 

Masks and gloves, (if used), should be removed, disposed of in a sealed plastic bag and hands washed thoroughly or sanitised immediately after the service has finished.

The frequency of an individual receiving home communion must be negotiated on an individual basis but must consider the risk to all involved. 

Litany of thankfulness and dedication (15/06/2020)

From Fr Neil Kelly, Chorley St Laurence can be found here. 

Liturgical resources for funerals (28/03/20)

The Liturgical Commission has produced additional resources which can be found here:

This includes:

  • a short advice document for clergy
  • outline orders of service for funerals at crematoria and at the graveside, observing the current public health guidance
  • a simple reflection and prayers which can be shared by ministers with those who are unable to attend funerals
  • printable graphics and stationery to share prayers and to point to online light-a-candle page

Music and singing in church - risk management (18/06/2020)

There have been an increasing number of enquiries about music and signing in church. Our current advice prepared by Dr Susan Salt is here.

Please note this is an area around which there is ongoing scientific research and it could be that the advice here changes over the next weeks. If so we will draw it to your attention. 

Pastoral Visiting advice as lockdown eases (08/07/20)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

(2 Corinthians1: 3-4.)

Caring for people, particularly at times of crisis, is at the heart of our ministry. We long to meet people face to face, to be able to communicate with them physically as well as verbally, but the risk of COVID-19 whilst diminished has not gone. We cannot return to providing pastoral care as we did prior to lockdown

As the lockdown eases and people from different households start to mix with each other more frequently the risk of the virus being spread in a community also increases, which is why we must continue to follow the government guidance as well as we can, within our local context. 

It is important that we do all we can both avoid being a source of infection, and also avoid becoming a contact.

The government guidance here remains unchanged even as the lockdown restrictions were eased on Saturday 4th July 2020.  They remain:

Stay alert

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly
  • Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

The guidance from the 4th July about meeting with others is as follows:

  • you can meet in groups of up to two households (your support bubble counts as one household) in any location - public or private, indoors or outdoors. You do not always have to meet with the same household - you can meet with different households at different times. However, it remains the case - even inside someone’s home - that you should socially distance from anyone not in your household or bubble.
  • when you are outside you can continue to meet in groups of up to six people from different households, following social distancing guidelines

Before you undertake any face to face pastoral visit, prayerfully consider the following points:

  • Is there another way to provide support – telephone, skype, video message, sending the family or carers a set of prayers they can use via email?
  • What is the risk to you and the risk to your household if you undertake a face to face meeting regardless of the location where you meet?
  • Are you the right person to go?

If you decide that a face to face meeting is essential, for example as part of preparing for a complex funeral or for someone approaching the end of their lives, then consider:

  • The number of people involved in the meeting and keep it to the minimum possible
  • The safest location where you can maintain social distance. If indoors choose a place with good ventilation and where the risk of viral particles remaining on hard surfaces is minimised.
  • Possible venues may be outside in a vicarage garden, a well-ventilated church office or vestry.  A church building may be suitable if it has either been thoroughly cleaned if open to the public or has not been used for at least 48 hours prior to the meeting and can be adequately cleaned after the meeting, or remain closed for a further 48 hours after the meeting. If the location is the individual’s own home then consider what mitigation you may need to take such as wearing a face mask and disposable gloves or asking to meet in their garden.
  • Follow the usual precautions of sanitising or washing hands as you enter the meeting space and making sure those you are meeting do the same, avoiding physical contact including handshakes or hugs and sitting at least 2m apart and not directly facing each other person but at an angle. 
  • Balance the additional protection of individuals using face masks and or gloves with the impact they may have on your ability to communicate with each other.
  • Make sure that there are tissues and sanitiser in the room where you are meeting and an accessible bin with a liner (ideally a pedal bin) for the disposal of used tissues.
  • Think carefully what you wish to take into the meeting with you, as books, paper and pens should be quarantined for 48 hours after the meeting.
  • Keep the meeting as short as possible whilst still seeking to fulfil the needs of the individual you are meeting with.
  • After the meeting, all hard surfaces will need to be wiped down, the bin emptied by removing the liner and tying at the top and disposed of in the bin 48 hours later. Ideally the space should be left unused for 48 hours if possible.

Every situation and context will be different, as will be the decisions we make around pastoral meetings.  You can only make the best decision you can at the time you make it, balancing the benefits against the risks of that decision. If you are not sure, talk through the issue with a colleague or one of your church officers

Ministry for those approaching the end of their life advice (28/03/2020)

The care of the dying is an important of ministry.  We need to be prepared for a significant increase in the number of deaths in our community in the next few weeks. 

Care of the dying person and those walking alongside them, conducting funerals and supporting the bereaved can be difficult, complex and draining.  At the height of the pandemic we may be faced with some incredibly painful dilemmas around who we minister to, how we minister to them whilst balancing the risk to ourselves and those around us.  For some clergy the risk to those in their household or to themselves should exclude them from direct face to face contact with those infected with COVID-19. 

Each of us should prayerfully consider how we will respond if asked to respond to a request to pray with someone who is dying and /or administer the sacrament of the sick.  These are not normal times, we have to assume that anyone who is sick, even if they are thought to be dying of something other than the COVID-19 virus, might have the virus, so it is important that you pause and think before responding.

For some not responding to a request for a face to face meeting is the right and Godly thing to do because of the risks that exposes you or your household to.  If you have vulnerable members of the household living with you such as elderly parents or a spouse with an underlying health condition think seriously about their health and the risk to them of you going into a high-risk situation. If that is the case is there someone else in your cluster who could respond to that request if essential and unavoidable?

You should therefore only undertake a face to face visit if the presence of a priest for sacramental ministry has been specifically requested and you judge it absolutely essential. Under the current circumstances no one should feel in any way obliged to conduct this ministry. Resources will be made available that you can give to families to assist them in praying for a dying relative.

Before you undertake any face to face pastoral visit consider the following points carefully:

  • Think carefully about the risk to you and the risk to your household if you undertake a face to face meeting.  Do not be under any illusion, you are being asked to take a significant risk in undertaking a pastoral, face to face visit
    • Is there another way to provide support – telephone, skype, video message, sending the family or cares a set of prayers they can use via email?
    • Can the risk of a face to face meeting be justified? Is this person imminently approaching the end of their life?
    • Are you the right person to go?
  • Where is the person who is dying?
    • If in hospital, even if they are someone you know well, sensitively but firmly hand the response to the hospital-based chaplaincy service.
    • If the person is in a hospice, ask about chaplaincy provision and in discussion with the healthcare team in the hospice decide who can respond. Some hospices will have access to their own chaplaincy teams, some will have access to hospital-based services, some will rely on parish clergy to come and minister to their parishioners.
    • if the person is in a care home or other care facility such as mental health care facility, discuss with the nursing staff what is needed and why
  • If you decide that a face to face visit is essential, then follow all the precautions being used by healthcare professionals including:
    • Washing your hands and wrists (remove your watch, bracelets etc) for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap on entering the house or care facility (to protect the care facility). Hand gel is less effective and so should not be relied on.
    • Maintain physical distance between you and others in the room. Ideally there should be three people or less in the room – you, a close relative or care worker and the person you are ministering to.
    • If possible do not use a liturgy book – but print the liturgy out on to a piece of paper that can be left with the patient once completed. If inappropriate to leave, make sure you dispose of the sheet before leaving the care facility (to prevent the virus spreading on the book or paper)
    • If personal protective equipment (PPE) is being used by health professionals you must use it too – in most cases that will be a plastic apron, disposable gloves and a face mask that covers your mouth and nose. These must be removed and placed in the bin provided before you leave the room.  In addition, you must wash your hands and wrists for at least twenty seconds with warm water and soap before you leave the room (to protect yourself)
    • Even if personal protective equipment is not being used, use disposable gloves if you are going to touch the patient as part of prayers / sacramental anointing and dispose of the gloves before leaving the room or care facility. Wash your hands and wrists with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before you leave the room or if that is not possible as soon as you can and definitely before you leave the care home or the house.
    • Keep the visit as short as possible whilst being pastorally sensitive.
    • Consider leaving some additional resources such as simple prayers or short bible readings that can be used by family or care workers as part of ongoing support for the person approaching the end of life. These should be printed out and left with the family.
    • Make sure you leave your contact details with the care home or a key member of a family and politely but firmly ask them to let you know if a case of COVID-19 is diagnosed in the home or household as soon as possible.

If there is any suspicion that you have been in contact with a person with COVID-19 then you must self-isolate – following the NHS guidelines and inform the Diocese. Do not take any risks.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Prayers

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

Care after death advice (28/03/2020)

Whilst most clergy will not be involved in the care of a body after death it is useful to be aware of the guidance around care after death for someone who has died from COVID-19 or is suspected of being infected, as this may influence the pastoral support needed in the future.

  • The body may be put into a body bag and treated as highly infectious – local guidelines may differ – the risk of infection diminishes as the time from death extends.
  • Any mementos from the body such as locks of hair or handprints can be taken but must be kept in a sealed bag for 7 days before being opened.
  • The family will not be allowed to see the body in the hospital mortuary and may not be able to view the body at the undertakers because of the infection risk.  In some instances, they may be able to view the body virtually.
  • Patients who have died with implantable devices such as pacemakers may be prevented from being cremated, even if that is their wish because of the danger of infection to the staff who would normally remove the device after death.
  • COVID-19 can be used as a cause of death on a medical certificate of the cause of death (MCCD). Some families may struggle with this as a cause of death.
  • It is likely that there may be delays around families getting the medical certificate of the cause of death, which means there may be lengthy delays in being able to register the death even before the likely delay in being able to hold a funeral
  • In some cases, there may need to be a coroner’s inquest which will build in significant delays to registering the death and disposal of the body.

Pastoral support around funerals advice (28/03/2020)

It is possible that several of the family will be in self isolation during the initial days after a death and possibly at the time of the funeral.  In addition, the number attending the funeral will be extremely limited. Consider:

  • Encouraging the family members to light a candle or a virtual candle around the time of the funeral. You can light a virtual candle on the Church of England website around funerals.    https://www.churchofengland.org/life-events/funerals
  • If possible, ensure they have a copy of the funeral service being used so they can follow it at home
  • Think about the role of memorial services later in the year to which families who have been unable to attend a funeral might be invited to.  Ensure you have the all relevant contact details needed and consent to contact them if this is something you plan to do.