Church of Ireland Coronavirus Information (as of April 2nd 2020)

            UNITED DIOCESE OF TUAM, KILLALA AND ACHONRY

 Coronavirus Guidance

 Public Worship

Services – All public acts of worship, including Sunday services,  Baptisms and Confirmations (including preparation), should cease  until further notice.

Online & Media Resources – See pages at the top of website for links

Daily prayers – Daily prayers can help give structure to our days for those who are housebound with more time for thinking and reflecting. You may wish to consider signposting people to the online resources at https://www.ireland.anglican.org/prayer-worship/book-of-common-prayer/2004-texts/texts and to produce local booklets to offer as personal copies only (please do not pass these around).

Prayer times – Setting up regular prayer times and using the church bell to sound the times of prayer, use of online conferencing facilities such as Skype, Facetime, Zoom, telephone prayer partners, could positively help to establish a sense of corporate prayer and the strengthening of the praying community.

  1. Pastoral Care

Clergy, Lay Readers and Diocesan Pastoral Assistants – The health and well-being of parish and diocesan clergy together with support staff and volunteers is of paramount importance, both for their own protection and for those they minister to. Those with underlying health conditions, those that develop symptoms, and those over 70 years of age should adhere to government guidance concerning self-isolation and should inform a neighboring member of the clergy or supervising member of clergy of their availability / unavailability in order to enable the continuation of pastoral ministry in the parish. Clergy are asked to co-ordinate the provision of pastoral care in their parishes in cooperation with neighbouring clergy.

Home Communion-  These should cease until further notice.

Visitation Protocols – All pastoral visitations should cease  until further notice. Instead Clergy and/or Diocesan Pastoral Assistants should contact those needing pastoral care in parishes by telephoning them. The hospital chaplains are no longer permitted to carry out hospital visits unless expressly invited to do so by hospital staff. Clergy who are asked to visit parishioners in hospital or residential care should only do so if permitted by the hospital/residential facility and with the consent of the individual’s family. Hygiene and physical distancing measures must be observed.

Pastoral and practical support – Develop a plan for the pastoral and practical support of those who are vulnerable or housebound in the parish (the plan must of course adhere to safeguarding policies and hygiene practices). Consider developing a ‘Love thy Neighbour’ scheme for those in self-isolation with a team of volunteers to: Regularly contact by phone to alleviate loneliness; Report concerns as to their health; Collect urgent supplies & shopping; Post mail. You may want to consider offering to hold next of kin details for parishioners who live alone, but make sure any such personal information is stored securely and you have the individual’s permission to have these details in keeping with General Data Protection regulations. Identify and brief lay people who can provide telephone support and prayer for those who are fearful or otherwise distressed.

Self-isolated – For those who need to self-isolate, consider how people can be supported with phone calls and via social media, and help with the delivery of shopping and / or medication. It is very important that all church members involved in such support are very clear on and committed to adhering to the Government’s isolation and general hygiene advice.

Funerals – Funerals should ideally be attended by family members and close friends only in order to keep numbers in attendance low, it is advisable that funerals are not publicly advertised in order to avoid large gatherings. Congregational singing should be avoided, hygiene advice and physical distancing should be adhered to, physical contact, including handshaking, and funeral teas should not take place. Copies of prayers for the sick and the dying and also a copy of the funeral service could be helpfully sent to those unable to attend the funeral of a friend or relative. Thanksgiving Services could be considered appropriate by those bereaved at a future date when possible.

Weddings – Weddings can take place under very restrictive circumstances in accordance with Government guidance, therefore it is preferable that weddings should be postponed.

Mental Health and Hardship – Efforts should be made to support those who may be struggling with mental health issues and/or hardship. It will be important to take measures, such as regular phone communication, to help alleviate loneliness and despair.

 Community Response

Volunteer Mobilisation – In time volunteer support may be necessary for medical staff and for individuals in the community. Churches are well placed to channel information, particularly on requests for volunteers. Information will be circulated to clergy and parishes when available.

Public Reassurance – Clergy can offer an important public reassurance through “the sacrament of presence” and being seen to be “present” and available. This does not include physically visiting those diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are self-isolating: clergy need to protect themselves and others, making sure they adhere to hygiene precautions. Clergy can also be a trusted voice in a community and help with the distribution of government advice ensuring isolated members of the community are aware of the precautions they can take. Network as appropriate with local health, welfare, safety networks, funeral directors and other service providers. Ensure contact details for these service providers are held by key parish leadership. Be aware of local information and peculiarities eg changes in public utilities or services that affect your community specifically.

  1. Parish Administration

Premises – All public parish premises should be closed until further notice, this includes Churches and Church Halls. Parishes, where possible, may consider providing access to Churches for private prayer and reflection, should this be the case then hygiene and physical distancing guidance must be observed. In due course there may be need for church premises to be made available for civic response purposes, these can be considered compassionately as they arise.

Easter Vestries – All Easter Vestry meetings should be deferred until further notice and existing officers should remain in post until circumstances allow. Legal advice concerning rescheduling is being sought.

Added: 19th March 2020

[If you have already given notice convening this year’s Easter Vestry you should not transact any business at the meeting but should simply adjourn it to the last date permitted by Section 12 of Chapter III of the Constitution namely the sixth Monday after Easter Day (i.e. 18thMay 2020). Furthermore, in advance of the date for which the meeting was originally scheduled you should notify your parishioners that they should not attend since it is going to be adjourned to 18thMay in order to comply with the Government’s restrictions and guidelines.

 If you have not already given notice convening the Easter Vestry for your parish, you should convene it for the latest date permitted by Section 12, namely 20 days after Easter Day (Saturday May 2nd) and should, notify your parishioners that they should not attend on that date since it is going to be adjourned to 18thMay in order to comply with the Government’s restrictions and guidelines on public gatherings.

 I have taken legal advice as to the position that will pertain if these restrictions continue on or after 18thMay.  The advice that I have received is under what is known as the doctrine of force majeure, (also known as Act of God!), compliance with the time limits under the Constitution to the holding of Easter Vestries will be regarded as having been frustrated and I will, in such circumstances be issuing a direction to all parishes to adjourn their Easter Vestries until further notice.

 You might note for so long as an Easter Vestry cannot be held, the existing Select Vestry remains in office in accordance with Section 18 of Chapter III of the Constitution and continues to perform its function accordingly.]

Select Vestries – All Select Vestry meetings should be deferred until further notice. Matters requiring urgent consideration by a Select Vestry should be considered using electronic means such a teleconferencing, email circulation.

Parish Organisations – All parish organisations, including Sunday School, Youth Organisations, Senior Citizen Activities, External Groups that utilize parish facilities etc should be cancelled from 17th March 2020 until further notice.

Charity Returns and Annual Accounts – Further guidance is being sought concerning submission of charity returns and approval of annual accounts.

 

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