COVID - 19


For the latest COVID-19 advice and prayer resources, please visit - https://www.churchofengland.org/


Coronavirus Task Group Update 27/05/2021

Please find attached briefing 27/05/2021

Dear Friends,

In this extended briefing we carry some advice and information written by the two medical advisers to the Task Group on some issues to consider as we move towards Stage 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown. Whilst some of it is necessarily speculative as we do not know when Stage 4 will begin or what it will entail, we hope that this advice enables parishes to plan ahead and do some thinking about what might be required next.

New Local Guidelines

Confusion reigned on Tuesday when residents of two of our Boroughs - Blackburn with Darwen and Burnley - were given new Government guidance advising against travelling out of the area. It was later clarified to read that travel should be kept to a minimum.

Increasingly Government will be trying to work by informing people's decisions rather than issuing directives and we need to see this new guidance in that light. Please continue to keep track of infection rates in your area and make informed decisions accordingly.

Online Worship this Sunday

An Act of Worship from Blackburn Cathedral will be available every Sunday from 9am. You can view this on the Cathedral YouTube Channel or on Facebook.

A Church Near You also enables people to find a livestreamed service in a local church. Just use this link and enter a postcode.

Farewell to Liturgy at Home

Our grateful thanks to Fr Neil Kelley who has been producing our weekly Liturgy at Home resource since March last year, a heroic effort which has been much appreciated. But all good things come to an end!

A Resource for Urban Churches - and for others too!

Unlock-Urban is a small charity that supports urban churches and they have produced an excellent resource called 'The Year we Stayed at Home' to help parishes emerge from lockdown. Whilst designed for urban churches, it will have much wider use and is free of charge. Follow this link to see more.

Issues to Consider around Public Worship when Step 4 on the Roadmap is Triggered.

Introduction

As we continue along the Government's roadmap out of lockdown, we hope for more opportunities to re-introduce many aspects of our church life that have been sorely missed. It is an exciting prospect to spend more time and energy on what we can do than what we can't. We do not know precisely what step 4 in the roadmap will entail for churches. However, this guidance seeks to highlight what we foresee as likely scenarios and is designed to help us think through how we can do things well as these new opportunities arise. In particular, the next step is likely to involve specific challenges for church leaders, including:

  • The responsibility for making safe and sensible decisions is increasingly likely to be delegated away from central Government and towards local leaders and institutions, thus affording local parishes much greater freedom and responsibility
  • There will be a variety of responses within our communities to these new opportunities ranging from enthusiasm to fear. We need to think through how we can love and care for one another at our different stages.
  • Just as lack of physical exercise causes muscles to atrophy, it is inevitable that many church members will be suffering from ministry or spiritual atrophy after such a long period of inactivity in certain areas of church life. How can we help one another build up our 'ministry fitness' - the spiritual equivalent of a 'couch to 5k'?
  • Societal attitudes towards personal space, hygiene, touch, etc. have shifted significantly over the past year and we must therefore consider how to adapt our mission and ministry in this context.

Background

COVID-19 is a rapidly changing virus that infects the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. It is spread by ingesting or breathing in droplets containing active viral particles.

Managing the spread of infection is about managing the risk of infection. It is not possible to prevent someone getting an infection if they are exposed to enough active viral particles. Risk of infection is reduced by:

  • Reducing the amount of virus in the community by limiting its spread by minimising contact between those with infection and those who are free of infection. That includes the guidance of hands, face and space.
  • Increasing the immunity of the population through vaccination
  • Preventing severe disease and death by protecting those must vulnerable.
  • Monitoring the emergence of new variants and responding quickly to those that are more infectious or able to cause potential life-threatening infections.

There remains considerable uncertainty about both the way COVID 19 is most often transmitted and how infectious it is. This uncertainty will remain as new variants emerge such as the variant that was first identified in India which is currently the main variant causing infections across parts of the Diocese including Blackburn and Burnley. The emergent of new variants of the virus means that guidance may need to change, sometimes at short notice.

Step 4 (Possibly June 21st)

When we move to Step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown the Government hopes to be able to remove all legal limits on social contact. However, depending on the results of the Events Research Programme, some guidance and recommendations around testing and infection risk-reduction are likely to remain in place for several months. The exact nature of the guidance will only emerge as results from research are analysed but will likely be around handwashing, minimising high risk activities such as hugging and singing, rigorous cleaning regimes and good ventilation.

It seems likely that each parish will be responsible for carrying out their own risk assessment and implementing appropriate measures relevant to their own context for managing risk. Any activity that involves people gathering will expose those participating to the potential of infection. Being indoors, and in close proximity to others is riskier than being outdoors, socially distanced. Therefore a balance will need to be struck between those activities that are essential for the life of your church, in your context with the risk those activities pose to your congregation and the wider community. You and the leadership team for your church are best placed to make the best judgement about what is reasonable and safe based on your context (e.g. infection rates/variants in your area, demographics and vaccination status, resources available, etc.).

Next steps around public worship

Step 4 of the roadmap will hopefully allow for the reintroduction of many of the elements of worship we have so desperately missed. Here are some things to think about - both general and specific:

Lament - Many people will be anxious about some the reintroduction of some elements of worship. When someone experiences a "first" after a time of deprivation (of someone or something) it can be experienced as a new loss in itself. Care and space needs to be given to acknowledge the challenge of restarting some activities after such a long absence. It is important to prepare for counterintuitive and surprising responses.

Thanksgiving - Being able to return to unrestricted worship should be celebrated. How will these moments be marked with thanksgiving and rejoicing whilst recognising those who are struggling?

Mission - All of our mission and ministry is contextualised. Societal attitudes to personal space, hygiene, appropriate physical touch, etc. have shifted (sometimes dramatically) because of the pandemic. How should we appropriately re-contextualise our mission and ministry in this new cultural setting?

Track & Trace

There is likely to be a recommendation for continuing to track and test by recording attendees.

Social Distancing indoors.

It is likely that the Government will continue to advise avoiding overcrowding indoors. There are unlikely to be specific requirements such as 1m plus, however returning to a full church all in one go may be overwhelming for some people. Consider gradually phasing the reduction of social distancing. Are there aspects of people flow management that would actually be helpful to retain - e.g. one way systems?

Wearing face coverings.

It is not clear whether the wearing of face coverings indoors in public buildings such as churches and concert halls will be encouraged in step 4 and beyond.

Sharing the peace

People will have different levels of comfort and thresholds of risk regarding physical touch. How will those who do not want to shake hands or be hugged be enabled to opt out with integrity. Consider whether it is appropriate, in some settings, to substitute a handshake for a fist or elbow bump.

Reintroducing the chalice

We are awaiting guidance from the national church about the reintroduction of the chalice. This will be complicated pastorally and liturgically for many. How will those who do not feel comfortable receiving the chalice be accommodated? Equally, it is likely that there will be a need for more stringent hygiene procedures around administering the chalice. It is possible that communicants may need to sanitize their hands before and after receiving the elements. If that is the case how would that work in your context?

Congregational singing indoors

It is unclear when singing will be permitted. When it is allowed, some may be very anxious. It may be worth considering phasing in the amount of singing in a service and possibly having more said services for those who are anxious initially. It may be that using face coverings when singing may be recommended. How will that be managed in your context?

Well being

This next phase, which demands such local levels of discernment, responsibility and monitoring is stressful. Think about how you will look after yourself and the wider leadership team. It is important to ensure you have regular breaks, that you have back up plans in place in case you fall ill. Think about continuing or refreshing the clergy clusters you were part of in the first wave of the pandemic to provide support, cover as well as a safe place to share ideas and frustrations in a constructive way.

Unlock - Lament, Thanksgiving and Mission

Each week we are sharing stories from across the Diocese of ways different parishes have started to engage with lament, thanksgiving and mission.

This week's story is from our Cathedral with Canon Rowena Pailing describing plans for a Back to Church Sunday in September:

How can we do back to church, when we've never been away?!

The ministry of the Cathedral has not stopped at any point because of Covid. Like all churches across the country, there have been moments when face to face worship has not been permitted, but whenever it has been possible we have gathered in a Covid secure way, and when it hasn't, we have worshipped together on line, in a format which continues. And whether face to face or on line, we pray for our Diocese, its parishes, chaplaincies and other Christian communities at least twice every day.

Over the last few weeks it has been a joy to welcome back many who have returned to services in the building, though we recognise that there are some people whose confidence has been knocked by the pandemic, and others who may always find online worship more accessible. Many have missed singing, and simply being together, so that will be our focus.

As the Dean, the Very Revd Peter Howell-Jones, explained at the Diocesan Pentecost service, what we are doing is quite simple, so if it works in your context, give it a go!

First, we are planning events to thank and celebrate our adult volunteers, and to encourage the parents and carers of the many children who are a key part of our worshipping and musical life.

Then September will be a month of opportunities to invite and encourage people to come 'Back to Church'. We will be dedicating time to be togetherfor each of our regular Sunday congregations with a brunch after the 9am service and refreshments after Evensong on 12thSeptember, and a lunch after the 10.30am service on 19th September. Our worship will engage with the themes of lament, thanksgiving and mission.

September will also see the launch of a new Christian basics course and another regular study group in addition to the existing house groups and study groups which already meet in person and online. And we have plans for more musical events, hoping that by September it will be possible to have congregational singing once again.

We may never have been away, but it's always good to celebrate being together.

Coronavirus Email Address

If you have questions or problems and can't find answers on the advice compendium please email: coronavirus@blackburn.anglican.org.

Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Amen.


Coronavirus Task Group Update 01/03/2021

Please find attached briefing 01/03/2021

Dear brothers and sisters

As anticipated, a change in advice regarding places of worship has arrived from the Directors of Public Health in Lancashire. You can find their letter here.

They want to reinforce that this is not a return to 'normal' worshipping practices but more a suggestion that the levels of risk seen in January are starting to abate.

Please do continue to maintain strict adherence to the guidelines around social distancing, hand washing or sanitising and the wearing of masks indoors.

While it may be tempting to relax a bit as restrictions begin to ease, we should continue to model good practice as we have done across the Diocese throughout the pandemic. It is still very important that people do not gather either before or after the service and you will see that the Directors of Public Health mention this specifically as an area of concern.

In light of this letter, the vaccine roll out, and following the announcement that schools are to fully reopen on the 8th of March, the dispensation given by the Bishop of Blackburn which allowed for the closure of churches to public worship will now end as follows:

8th March - Blanket provision for churches to close for public worship on a Sunday ends. Churches can and should, where possible, now reopen for public worship on a Sunday and Feast Days.

8th - 29th March - Churches have a 3 week grace period should they not be ready to reopen and can inform Bishop Julian of their intentions to remain closed whilst they prepare for a return to in-person worship.

30th March - For churches who wish to stay closed after this date, specific permission must be sought from Bishop Julian. This is done in writing (by email is sufficient) and will be considered on a case by case basis. Without such permission a church building cannot legally remain closed to public worship from this date.

As always, we have updated our Coronavirus Compendium on the Diocesan website with this important development.

Any decision to reopen after a time of closure should be taken alongside local church leadership and following a thorough risk assessment. If you are unsure about what to do or need any assistance in making your decision please contact your Area Dean, an Archdeacon or contact the coronavirus email address and someone will be in touch with you.

Blackburn Cathedral have made the decision to open for public worship after the 8th March.

If you have any questions about this or anything else please do continue to use our advice compendium and email the coronavirus email using coronavirus@blackburn.anglican.org

Gracious God,
as we remember before you the thousands
who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your
strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
Amen.


Below is a link to Bishop Jill's latest words of encouragement on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xY6_fCoYJFQ



Words from Bishop Jill to Families and Information from the Board of Education

Many parents are juggling work, child care, solving maths problems and setting new boundaries and routines. Some parents have suddenly found themselves out of work; some parents have found themselves with incredible demands at work.

Please give yourself plenty of slack in this time. I'm conscious that as Christians we are often super-dedicated to the cause. Mother Teresa once said: "If you want to change the world, go home and love your family". My best child-care advice as a new mum was from a nun(!) who observed how our children often reflect back our own moods to us. And anyone who has been couped up with a toddler for too long can totally understand why tantrums break out at the worst possible times. And that's just the parent! I finished a Zoom meeting with the North West bishops yesterday then went out to play football in the garden. I enjoyed both: though sometimes virtual kids and football with colleagues is tempting.

It can be hard thinking of new ideas to engage and enthuse our children. Can I recommend our marvellous Board of Education Website and Social Media pages. There you'll find lots of resources for children, teenagers, RE and collective and family worship. Take a look at Lisa Horobin's films "Off the Shelf". You might even meet her dog.

The Children's and Youth teams in the diocese have produced some fantastic resources, click on the links below:

https://www.bdeducation.org.uk/product-category/under-5s/

https://www.bdeducation.org.uk/product-category/primary-age-5-11/

https://www.bdeducation.org.uk/product-category/secondary-age/

https://www.bdeducation.org.uk/podcasts/

https://www.bdeducation.org.uk/product/podlets-discussion-notes/

https://www.bdeducation.org.uk/youth/youth-blog/

The team have been working hard to adapt many of the church focused resource to being home focused and for parents to use with their children and young people. The best way of keeping up with the new resources and those being adapted is through their Social Media pages, the links for which are below.

https://www.facebook.com/BDBEupdates/

https://twitter.com/BDBofE

https://www.instagram.com/bdbofe/

https://www.youtube.com/user/blackburndiocese

Jesus Himself faced cataclysmic threats. Herod was always out to kill him. I love his advice when living under that threat: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough evil of its own" (Matt 6.34). May our Good Father give His peace and wisdom to parents and children at this time."

Live streaming weekday morning prayer - Ex parishioner, Anne Beverley, now priest at Christ Church, Wesham is providing this on alternate weekdays at 10am. Take part by joining their Facebook group, or by looking at their You tube channel:-

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCigVOWiV6aVxsXllWtJ7cGQ

 The videos will be stored there for you to use at any convenient time.

The Church of England is streaming daily services enabling people to link up - just google C of E

They are provided in contemporary and traditional forms. You can do this without an I-pad or computer if you've a Smart speaker such as Alexa or Google home. Just say, "Alexa open the Church of England" OR "Hey Google, talk to the Church of England" and then ask for the daily service.

Television, Radio Schedules will inform of services and programmes offering religious encouragement and Smart-phone Apps will be useful too.

Remember also to use this website.

We are aiming to provide links to many of the items above.

Also the Vicar of our benefice, Rev Philip Chew, intends as far as possible

to post a fresh 'Thought for the day' and a regularly updated prayer.


This page replaces the magazine's usual list of services at St Nicholas and St Matthew's. and underneath is an explanation of plans made to assist our church and community in coping with the restrictions caused by the current emergencies.

"Do not be frightened or dismayed for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Joshua 1:9


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St Nicholas Wrea Green Parish Continuity Plan 


Use of Church

  • Our Churches will remain open as normal for prayer and reflection

Hand Sanitizers to be obtained and placed near to the inner doors

  • There are prayer stations within church with prayers written by specific groups: - Jam, LCF, Men's Breakfast and the weekly prayer rota
  • We will support Fylde Foodbank with donations and possibly offer assistance with the manning
  • Funerals, Baptisms, and Weddings can go ahead but with only immediate family or the minimum required by law. This is subject to review

Communication

  • The Web site www.stnicholaschurchwreagreen.com is updated on a regular basis with news and prayers and words of comfort and encouragement. Links to COE web site and those churches who stream services will be made available
  • Poster/Notices in porch and on the notice board
  • Church bells will be rung each day at 12.00 noon
  • Everyone is invited to place a candle in a window in the home to be lit each Sunday at 7:00pm to show the light of Christ never goes out.
  • A letter will be distributed informing each house what we are doing and how to contact people will be delivered
  • The Easter Cross to be erected on the Green near to church subject to permission from Parish Council
  • The April Parish Magazine will have articles of support for the foodbank and services added or modified.

Pastoral Care

the Church will offer support to Wrea Green Coronovirus Helpers,.

  • As a Church we will continue to offer wherever possible Pastoral care by phone but not necessarily with house visits
  • We will contact all the vulnerable we know and offer help or put them in touch with Wrea Green Coronovirus Helpers. A list has been produced by Stanley Parkinson
  • If possible this same group to offer support in Weeton and Ballam
  • Soundings to be taken to see if we can put the Helpers group in touch with appropriately trained counsellors
  • To encourage people to ask for help if they need it

Social Activities and Use of the Centre

  • Nicholas Bear Club, Wednesday Get Together and Tea and Tea Cakes and other social gatherings have been cancelled.