The College of Bishops today provided guidance as follows. It should also be emphasised that in a rapidly changing situation, the guidance that follows must be regarded as subject to any public health guidance or direction, which must take precedence.
- Advice issued last night by the Scottish Government is to the effect that church services should cease. Consequently, the Bishops ask that all gatherings for worship, including small gatherings such as house groups, should be discontinued until further notice.
- Church buildings can be kept open as a place for people to come and pray. However, if a church is open for private prayer, notices should be clearly displayed asking that visitors wash their hands on entry to the church.
- The province is working on plans to make worship available online. The bishops encourage participation in the broader Eucharistic life of the church in this way and emphasise the such online involvement is a form of participation in the Eucharistic community, even though participants cannot physically partake of the bread or wine.
- The taking of funerals may give rise to specific concerns. It may simply not be possible for family relatives or friends of the deceased’s to be able to attend a funeral service as usual. However, clergy can still take a funeral at the graveside or crematorium, even if those present are limited to clergy and funeral directors.
- In the light of the public health recommendation that non-essential travel should not be undertaken, it is clearly inappropriate to continue with meetings which would draw people from a wider area – such as regional gatherings. Institutions, licensings etc will need to be dealt with differently from normal.
The full Guidance can be read at: https://www.scotland.anglican.org/coronavirus-updates/
In East Sutherland and Tain we will be following this advice and so all scheduled services and meetings will not now be taking place until further notice.
Subject to making arrangements for the opening and closing of the buildings, St Finnbarr’s, Dornoch and St Andrew’s, Tain will be open for private prayer at those times when there would have been services taking place but this will be for the purpose of allowing individuals to pray or meditate quietly on their own.
None of this means that ministry and pastoral care will cease, it’s just that we will need to carry it out in new and creative ways. Contact and communication can still be maintained over the telephone, by email or other electronic means and you are all encouraged to use these means to keep in contact with the clergy and others in the congregations, when you feel that it would be helpful or if you need advice. You shouldn’t suffer alone and we can pray together over the phone.
The clergy will be considering how best to provide regular information and material (such as reflections and prayers) to assist in your spiritual welfare and will make arrangements for such communication to be available to all whether or not you have access to the Internet.