Coronavirus News Update

News Item 1

March 29: Updated advice to churches about coronavirus

A scientist holding a coronavirus test tube credit Velimir Adobe Stock

The United Reformed Church (URC) is offering advice and resources from a variety of sources about the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. 
Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives. God is with us.

  • Read a pastoral letter from the Revd Collin Cowan, General Secretary of the Council for World Mission

  • Listen again to the act of worship, first shared on March 29, on our Daily Devotions website. Read a list of churches offering live streamed services, sermons as podcasts, recorded services on YouTube, Facebook and Zoom, audio files of services, sermons and other worship and Bible study resources. 

  • Download a hints and tips infographic from Matt Collins about how to get the best results when filming sermons. There is also a new illustrated hints and tips guide about using Zoom for meetings from Naomi RW. 

  • Read a letter about furloughed church workers with an example leave agreement from the URC's Treasurers and Chief Finance Officer: PDF version or Word version 

  • Download and print off a leaflet about prayer for children, written by the Revd Jenny Mills. If you're a bit older and would like a similar leaflet, download this daily prayer cycle from the Revds Ian Fosten and Phil Nevard

  • Safeguarding: DDC, our DBS/PVG checking service provider, has published a response relating to the services that DDC will be providing during the Covid-19 pandemic. DBS has also published new guidance on DBS checks which means ID documents can be checked by video link or scanned images. Read DDC's update regarding relaxed document checking processes. Read Safeguarding people in the midst of coronavirus from our Safeguarding team: PDF or Word document

  • Read the latest blog from the Moderators of the URC General Assembly, Derek Estill and the Revd Nigel Uden. They have also offered the following prayer as we come to terms with the full impact of coronavirus 

  • Read some thoughts for Ministers and CRCWs during the first phase of the coronavirus crisis, by Christopher Southgate, Carla Grosch-Miller and Hilary Ison of the Tragedies and Christian Congregations Project - PDF version or Word version

  • Updated guidance about what places of worship can do from the UK government: Funerals: the congregation of immediate family with a carer, if required, or a friend if no family members are attending. Two metres to be maintained between every household group; A minister of religion is permitted to go to their place of worship to broadcast an act of worship to people outside the place of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise; For the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public service, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions.

  • Read new guides from the URC about Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, written for those who have never used them before but are thinking about doing so to stay in touch with their church or community. Also available is guidance about the recording of podcasts, using Facebook Live, YouTube and Zoom.

  • The UK Government has published a list of key workers - people whose jobs mean their children can still attend school. Religious staff are listed under 'Key public services'. Ministers and CRCWs needing a letter to confirm you are a key worker can get one from Nicola Furley-Smith, URC Secretary for Ministries, ministries@urc.org.uk, or from their Synod Moderator.

  • Full services will be available from the URC's Daily Devotions website every Sunday. The Daily Devotions offers a daily Bible reading, reflection and prayer. Visit the website to read or listen to today's devotion, and to subscribe to them if you would like them sent by email. The writers, editors and those that record the devotions are all volunteers, from across the URC. 

  • The staff contacts list is can be found here. Please use direct lines as the switchboard is now closed. The email protocol is firstname.lastname@urc.org.uk. 

  • Read a letter from John Proctor offering advice about Ordinations and Inductions - read the letter as a PDF or a Word document.

  • Read a letter from John Samson, Chief Financial Officer, about the financial implications of the coronaviris crisis - PDF or Word document.  

  • Follow the URC on Facebook and Twitter for updates, ideas and resources, as well as the latest advice from the UK government.  

  • The latest advice from the NHS can be found on its websiteIf you feel or become unwell, always seek the advice of your GP or call the NHS Helpline on 111 from landlines or mobiles.

  • Regularly phone or keep in touch with those who are unable to come to church. 

  • Do not visit those in self-isolation, and follow local healthcare professional advice for visiting those in care homes or hospital. Take extra care with hand washing before and after visits. 

  • Remember to also clean your phone or device. 

  • Read the latest advice from The Church of EnglandThe Methodist Church or The Church of Scotland. Also read the latest advice from the UK Government and keep up to date with Coronavirus-related news stories from the BBC

Image: Velimir/Adobe Stock
Updated: 29 March, 16.56

 

Safeguarding link 2019

 

News Item 2

Official guidance

Updated 24 March 10:00

Updated guidance on use of church buildings, baptisms, weddings and funerals.  See FAQs


The Methodist Church has announced the closure of all its church buildings for the foreseeable future. The only exception will be for churches that are offering essential social outreach such as foodbanks, soup kitchens and night shelters, but these must be carried out closely within Government guidelines. The Methodist Church suspended worship services last week with some churches still opening for quiet prayer and reflection. This must now also be suspended. We would encourage people to use our online resources at home which include downloadable services and links to online worship services.

The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler, Secretary of the Conference said: “We are asking people to change their way of ‘going to church’ to help to protect themselves and others. We have put in place measures that will enable Methodists still to be part of the worshipping community, whilst for everyone’s sake staying away from church buildings. There is a range of resources available for people to use at home which we hope will help them to continue their cycle of prayer and worship. The Methodist Church is more than its buildings and if in these unprecedented times we can continue our life as Methodists without using our buildings we will help to reduce the chances of transmission of the virus.”

If you are running a foodbank or soup kitchen we would urge you to seek advice on how and whether to continue operating as safely as possible from central bodies such as the Trussell Trust or IFAN.  

If you’re running a night shelter there is advice available here and here.

In terms of Church business, all meetings including church councils and circuit meetings should be cancelled. Districts chairs will be in touch about Synods. The next meeting of the Methodist Council has been suspended and work is in hand to make sure that essential business is carried out. We will be issuing further advice on this.

Other community activities

The Trussel Trust has also issued guidance on how churches can support volunteer supported charities.

The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) have produced a simple guide on how you can  support foodbanks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Other community events like lunch clubs, after school clubs, playgroups and fellowship groups should be suspended.

Pastoral concerns

Churches must only consider carrying out pastoral ‘visits’ by phone. You should refer to the Government guidelines on visiting vulnerable people if you are considering doing this.  Remember that many people are anxious and a reassuring phone call and an offer to pray might be very much appreciated.

If you’re a minister, consider what your plan might be if someone in your congregation is diagnosed with the virus.

Coronavirus FAQs

Can we hold baptisms, weddings or funerals? 

Where a preschool is offering care for children of key workers – is it ok for that group to continue you using our building?

Can support meetings like AA still continue to meet in our buildings? 

Blood Donors use our church – is it ok for that group to continue you using our building? 

We have been using our church to record worship materials – can this continue?

Can we livestream with a small and well distanced group taking part?

What impact does coronavirus have if I’m employing staff?  

What should I do about the church property while it's empty?

I am concerned about church finances – what can I do?

What happens if we lose income because groups who rent space in church buildings can’t meet or through a loss of rental income?

What is happening to Methodist Council meetings?

Should my church council / Synod still go ahead?

Is the Methodist Conference still going ahead?

What about candidates for the ministry?

What if we want to keep our church open for people to pray?

What should I do if I am due to take my sabbatical?

How will supervision work while we self-isolate?

I am due to be stationed by the Conference  to a new circuit and therefore be on the move in the summer.  Will I still be moving in the summer?

How can I contact someone at Methodist Church House?

 

Can we hold baptisms, wedding and funerals?

Baptisms

There will be no baptisms until further notice because of the closure of churches. In case of an emergency please contact your Minister.

 

Weddings

In line with Government guidelines weddings will not take place until further notice. Where a wedding is postponed, the Minister will work with the couple of help them find a suitable future date.

If you have any questions please email: mvw@methodistchurch.org.uk

 

Funerals

  • Funerals can, and should continue in the name of the Methodist Church as part of our pastoral response to the coronavirus crisis.
  • Methodist Church buildings should only to be used in the last resort, and simple graveside/ crematorium services are to be preferred.
  • If a Methodist Church building is re-opened for a funeral, Church Stewards who are classed as vulnerable should not be present.
  • The minister or trained local person under the direction of the Superintendent should make the arrangements by remote media (telephone, skype etc).
  • The number of people attending a funeral should be kept to a minimum - with those in attendance observing suitable social distancing as per the government’s advice. 
  • Those over the age of 70 and those with an underlying health condition are strongly discouraged from attending in the present circumstances.
  • The service may be broadcast via social media or recorded to be shared later.  The minister should explain to people what is happening (especially those not physically present).
  • The service should include prayers and a message of Christian hope.
  • There is no requirement for a musician to be present.
  • Do not use communal hymn books or service books.
  • People should avoid social contact, such as hugging.
  • There should be no social gathering such as a wake before or after the service.
  • Consideration should be given to offering a memorial service when the emergency is over.
  • Local councils will have guidance around what is possible or permissible in crematoria and cemeteries.

 

Where a preschool is offering care for children of key workers – is it ok for that group to continue you using our building?

Safeguarding would exclude anyone else whilst they are on the premises, so if the Local Authority wants it to continue it should, but we should not expect anyone from the Church to unlock or support its meetings (and certainly not the over 70s) .

 

Can support meetings like AA still continue to meet in our buildings?

No they must stop too as the buildings are closed. The coronavirus situation has resulted in many AA meetings being unavailable as groups follow Government guidelines to minimise social contact. AA have told us that many meetings now exist online and can be found here: https://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/AA-Meetings/Find-a-Meeting/Online 

 

Blood Donors use our church – is it ok for that group to continue you using our building?

This is a vital service, if the NHS wants it to continue it should, but we should not expect anyone from the church to unlock or support its meetings (and certainly not anyone who is over 70). 

 

We have been using our church to record worship materials – can this continue?

No-one should be going into the church buildings, worship resources can be recorded by individuals at home.

 

Can we livestream with a small and well distanced group taking part?

This should stop in church buildings. Our website has a list of places who are offering livestreaming and you should use these where possible.

 

What impact does coronavirus have if I’m employing staff?

There are many questions around employment at this time, and the HR department have produced a detailed document looking at issues such as what your duties are as an employer and if your employee needs time off work to look after children. 

They have also produced a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for Churches, Circuits and Districts 

Download both documents here

 

What should I do about the church property while it's empty?

The Property Team have issued Coronavirus guidance for property here.

TMCP have also issued their own coronavirus FAQs here.

 

I am concerned about church finances – what can I do?

During this period of great uncertainty people are concerned about the financial impact on churches and circuits. At this stage we are asking any church that experiences financial difficulty to talk to the leadership team in their Circuit, and any Circuit that is in difficulty to talk to their District. Any concerns that arise at a District level can be taken up with the Connexional Team’s Finance department. Contact: Matthew Tattersall: tattersallm@methodistchurch.org.uk

 

What happens if we lose income because groups who rent space in church buildings can’t meet or through a loss of rental income?

It’s our understanding that this would not be covered by insurance as coronavirus is not a specified disease.

 

What is happening to Methodist Council meetings?

This month’s Council meeting will not go ahead as planned, and plans are being made to ensure that the essential business is carried out.

 

Should my church council/Synod still go ahead?

We recommend that all meetings including church councils and circuit meetings should be cancelled. Districts chairs will be in touch about Synods.

 

Is the Methodist Conference still going ahead?

No decision has been made yet, although we are having regular discussions about this and will heed Government advice when making a decision.

 

What about candidates for the ministry?

The Candidates Committee will not meet in the way planned from 23 March but all candidates have been contacted about the way in which the candidating process will be completed

 

Can we keep our church open for people to pray?

All church buildings are to remain closed for the foreseeable future. Where possible you should offer other ways for people to pray and worship online.

 

What should I do if I am due to take my sabbatical?

In order that the Church’s ministry might be at full strength after the crisis prearranged sabbaticals should be taken as arranged and may only be deferred with the permission of the District Sabbaticals Group (SO 744) Any change in the timing of a sabbatical may only take place after consultation as directed in SO744  noting that this will impact on future planning.

Full guidance is found in SO 744 and this must be followed.

 

How will supervision work while we self-isolate?

Read guidance on Offering supervision while social distancing 

Download Receiving supervision while social distancing (Pdf)

 

I am due to be stationed by the Conference  to a new circuit and therefore be on the move in the summer.  Will I still be moving in the summer?

This advice is under ongoing review. The current plan is we should follow usual practice, however we will offer further guidance guidance as the crisis develops

 

How can I contact someone at Methodist Church House?

The building is now fully closed with the staff working remotely. You can still call reception on 020 7486 5502 or email on enquiries@methodistchurch.org.uk If you have a meeting planned at MCH and you haven’t heard from the meeting organiser, please assume it is cancelled and do not travel to MCH.

If you have a question which isn’t answered here please email: enquiries@methodistchurch.org.uk

 

A message of thanks and support

Dear Friends,

We in the Connexional Team are working hard to support you all in Mission and Ministry to fulfil your calling. We wanted to say how grateful we are for the way you have responded to the challenges of these current times. We have seen so many of you going the extra mile in producing web based worship, in sharing resources, and in building one another up. This last Sunday we saw hundreds of examples across the Connexion of true connexionalism and we are so encouraged. This will be a marathon and not a sprint, we are committed to serving you as you serve the world, take care of yourselves and please feel free to make contact if we can offer more, or you spot gaps that you might have ideas on filling.  Thank you.

Jude Levermore Head of Mission and Paul Wood Interim Director of the Ministries Team

 

More information

Guidance on avoiding the spread of the virus on the NHS website

How to tell if you have coronavirus

Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and risk in the UK

COVID-19: guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection

COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses 

Government advice for travellers, including those that want to return from various countries.

 

Download an NHS handwashing poster to print out (Pdf)

 

If you have any questions regarding the Methodist Church and coronavirus, please email enquiries@methodistchurch.org.uk