Transforming the communities of Essex & East London through Christ’s presence

Coronavirus advice from:

Chelmsford Diocese

Church of England

This section deals with some of the questions we have been asked by parishes across the diocese. We will continue to update it to address issues as they arise and where guidance changes so please keep checking this page. There is an additional set of FAQs specifically for clergy which will be circulated to Area Deans via their Archdeacon.


Financial guidance for churches (27/03)

The Parish Resources website contains advice on giving and government support during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Eucharist whilst church buildings are closed (26/03)

The four bishops in Chelmsford Diocese have sent the following message to priests in the diocese:

Since all public worship has now stopped and this includes even one or two people meeting in church, we have decided that in these exceptional circumstances and for a limited period we are giving permission for priests who hold the Bishop of Chelmsford’s licence to celebrate the Eucharist in their own at home if there is no one in the house who can be with them.

This exceptional permission lasts only for so long as the current restrictions prevent the possibility of a Eucharist being celebrated in church with at least one other person present, and will expire as soon as that becomes possible again.

We realise this constitutes a temporary change in our established understanding of these important matters, and we do not make this decision lightly, but in the entirely unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves we believe it is the right thing to do. Our Lord has asked us to do this in remembrance of Him. For some of us, the only way of doing this is on our own.

We entirely respect the fact that some clergy, even though on their own, will not want to do this, and that some have already decided to show solidarity with laypeople by keeping – as it were – a Eucharistic fast.

However, where your conscience allows, and where it feels appropriate, we are content for priests in the Chelmsford diocese to celebrate the Eucharist in their homes and, if necessary, on their own.

Furthermore, it may be helpful to remember that the Eucharist is never a solitary, isolated or exclusive act, but rather one intended to connect those who minister with the whole people of God and with the prayer of the Church in heaven. Many lay people will take comfort from knowing that even though they cannot receive Communion, this act of solemn remembrance goes on. This feels especially relevant as Holy Week approaches.

We are also remembering each of you. We are sure you are doing the same in your prayers each day, whether it be the Eucharist or not.

Safeguarding (08/04)

The Church of England have published guidance on safeguarding for organised volunteering, helping with childcare for Key Workers and DBS checks. This can be viewed here.

The Church of England have also published guidance on safeguarding for youth work involving video conferencing. This can be viewed here.

Church buildings maintenance and insurance (including use as foodbanks) (30/03)

The Church of England have published advice on securing and maintaining church buildings during the coronavirus pandemic which can be read here.

Ecclesiastical insurance have also published advice for chuches on unoccupied buildings during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Diocese have also been in touch with Ecclesiastical regarding the opening of church buildings and halls to run foodbanks and other essential community services. Ecclesiastical state the following:

As long as the activities are co-ordinated and run under the auspices and control of the individual PCC, their Employers' Liability and Public Liability covers will respond accordingly, subject to following Government guidelines and the PCC's safeguarding, long working policies etc.

Where volunteers are not usually church volunteers, the PCC must supervise and co-ordinate these individuals in relation to safeguarding etc. They should also keep a list of the volunteers.

If the PCC are just providing the building to enable a third party to run the foodbanks, as the PCC will effectively just be the Property Owner, the PCC’s Public/Property Owner liability cover will respond.

We would advise the PCC to ensure they are following the Public Health England and NHS guidelines, and for the PCC to ensure their health and safety policies are up to date. The Church of England have some useful information on their website including a link to the Trussell Trust website which is specific guidance for foodbanks.

The third party organiser should also have their own liability cover in place and should again ensure they carry out Health and Safety risk assessments.

Closure of Church Buildings (25/03)

The Archbishops' letter of 24 March states that church buildings should close for public worship and private prayer. This includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own. This poster can be printed and displayed on church building doors. On 25 March the four Bishops of Chelmsford Diocese wrote to parishes with further explanation of the Church of England's decision.

What about food banks and other essential services? (25/03)

Latest government advice states that “facilities may remain open for the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as foodbanks or homeless shelters”.

The Trussell Trust has put together some helpful guidance for the safe operation of their foodbanks during this period. Their guidance which can be viewed in full here includes the following:

At food banks, social distancing rules mean ensuring volunteers who are classed as ‘at risk’ because they are over 70 or have a health condition stay at home. It means making sure there are hand-washing facilities in any centre people are in, and everyone is encouraged to wash their hands. It also means making big changes to the way centres work, to limit contact between people. This will look different in different centres, but it might mean:

  • Instead of being invited into a centre, people referred are immediately given a pre-packed food bank parcel in a practical, dignified and compassionate manner
  • Ensuring that wherever people are waiting, there is a large enough space for people to wait at least two metres apart
  • A reduced number of food bank sessions per week
  • Coordination with local agencies to give them pre-packed food bank parcels, or to deliver to people those agencies work with

The Trussell Trust have also issued an Urgent Request for Support from Churches, which may be of interest to your own church if you are able and looking to start or extend your support for food banks.

Please note, advice and guidance about foodbanks will remain constantly under review, so please keep checking these pages.

What about baptisms? (25/03)

Baptisms can no longer go ahead but emergency baptisms can take place in hospital or at home, though subject to strict hygienic precautions and physical distancing as far as possible.

What about weddings? (25/03)

There can be no weddings in church buildings until further notice.

What about funerals? (03/04)

Funerals can only happen at the Crematorium or at the graveside. Only immediate family members can attend (if the crematorium allows) – that is, spouse or partner, parents and children, keeping their distance in the prescribed way.

The Church of England have published resources to support funerals including:

  • A short advice document for clergy
  • Outline orders of service
  • A simple reflection and prayers which can be shared by ministers with those who are unable to attend funerals
  • Printable graphics and stationary to share prayers and to point to online light a candle page

The Chelmsford Diocesan Board of Finance has decided to follow the recommendation from the Archbishops to waive funeral fees although we recognise that people may still wish to pay the fee as a donation or they may have a funeral policy in place which covers the fee. This decision relates only to the Diocesan Board of Finance fees. The fees charged by PCCs and by local clergy need to be determined by those who have responsibility for setting or waiving these fees. However we encourage people to consider the compelling pastoral reasons for trying to be as supportive as possible at this time.

Is the diocesan office closed? 

The Diocesan Office is now closed and staff are working from home where possible. Staff can be contacted directly by telephone or email. If you don’t know the contact details of the person you wish to speak with, please email and they will forward your message.

What about Property Services?

The Property Services team are also implementing a number of changes to ensure we are operating safely and following government guidelines:

  • Risk identification – All calls taken by the property helpdesk or planned appointments will seek to identify relevant risk factors in the households.
  • Prioritisation – It is possible that our capacity to undertake work will diminish if staff members or contractors are forced to isolate. In such circumstances we may have to reduce response times for less urgent work.
  • Site visits – where possible we will seek to minimise site visits. Where site visits are essential we will try to maintain social distance where possible in accordance with government guidelines. This means that our staff or contractors may ask household occupants to maintain a distance of more than two metres or to remain in a separate room if they are thought to be infected whilst we visit their home to undertake work. Please understand that our staff or contractors may not undertake work if reasonable requests are not followed.
  • Infection control – We will be writing to all of contractors to request that they instruct their staff to follow government guidance on hygiene and infection control, and to notify us if any of their operatives become unwell within 14 days of completing work in our properties.

Annual Meetings, Elections of Church Wardens, Synod Reps and PCC members

If you have already had your Annual Meetings….

  1. The churchwardens chosen in 2019 remain in office until those chosen in 2020 are admitted unless the archdeacons of bishops allow otherwise.  Incumbents will be able to admit new churchwardens only when safe and absolutely necessary, and following consultation with their archdeacon. The archdeacons will hold a service of celebration for new churchwardens at a future date.

  2. Deanery Synod representatives elected in 2017 (or subsequently to fill a casual vacancy) continue in post until 30th November 2020. They will, therefore, comprise the electorate for the House of Laity of the General Synod, when those elections go ahead. 

  3. PCC members will already have been appointed at your APCM.

If you haven’t yet had your Annual Meetings….

  1. Don’t panic!  The deadline for Annual Meetings (Annual Meeting of Parishioners and APCM) has been extended until 31st October 2020.
  2. Churchwardens elected in 2019 continue to hold office until 31st January 2021 unless their successors are admitted to office before that. (See 1. above). This extension applies also to churchwardens who were already in their sixth year of office.
  3. Deanery Synod representatives elected in 2017 (or subsequently to fill a casual vacancy) continue in post until 30th November 2020. They will, therefore, comprise the electorate for the House of Laity of the General Synod, when those elections go ahead
  4. PCC members will remain in post until the end of the next APCM, whenever that takes place.  This extension applies also to any who were due to step down from office in 2020.

Note:     Details regarding elections for the General Synod will be circulated in due course.

Guidance on PCC decision making and online meetings (31/03)

The diocesan registrar has provided guidance to help PCCs who are making decisions or considering using technology to hold meetings

  1. There is no general provision permitting ‘virtual’ meetings. However, if all the other procedural requirements for a meeting are met, and the PCC wished to proceed in this way, it seems to me that a video-conference meeting could take place, as long as every member wishing to attend the meeting is able, and has the facility, to do so. It would be a fundamental pre-requisite of any such meeting that all the members attending could both hear and see each other. A telephone or other audio link would not be sufficient. (This is going further than is envisaged in the CRRs (Church Representation Rules) but is based on the legal understanding of what constitutes a meeting. It is important to note that if a member wishes to attend, but does not have the facility to do so by videoconference, that member is entitled to attend the meeting in person, which is likely to be problematical for the foreseeable future, and it would be for that reason that a valid meeting could not be convened.)
  1. Formal business may also be conducted by correspondence, which includes by email where a person has provided an email address. See CRRs Rule 76 and Model Rules M29.
  1. It should also be remembered that the Standing Committee of the PCC may transact the PCC’s business between meetings, subject to the statutory limitations and any directions of the PCC. See CRRs Model Rule M31. The comments above relating to video-conference meetings apply similarly to the Standing Committee.
  1. These are, of course, the provisions for formal meetings and business. There is nothing to prevent email and telephone interaction between members of the PCC to give informal consideration to matters. It may be possible to deal with many straightforward and uncontroversial matters in this way. However, formal decisions would need to await a properly constituted meeting of the PCC or, as appropriate, the Standing Committee.
  1. PCCs required to submit accounts and an annual return to the Charity Commission should note that the Commission’s current advice is that the charity should contact the Commission if it believes that it will need an extension to the (10 month) deadline for filing the annual return. Given the number of charities likely to be affected, it may be helpful for a member of the PCC to check the Charity Commission website from time to time, in order to check for any further guidance.

What do we do about GDPR?

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said in a series of recent tweets:

"GDPR does not inhibit use of data for coronavirus response. GDPR has a clause excepting work in the overwhelming public interest. No one should constrain work on responding to coronavirus due to data protection laws.

"We are all having to give up some of our liberties; rights under GDPR have always been balanced against other public interests."

It is important that we still comply with data protection legislation through this period but it need not inhibit our response to the pandemic. The Information Commissioners Office have published guidance for data controllers which can be read here .

Does the Charity Commission offer any advice?

The latest advice from the Charity Commission is available on their website:

Should meetings continue?

Meetings should not happen face to face. We need to do all that we can to encourage people to stay indoors.  If a meeting is urgent, we recommend that you consider using phone/video conferencing to enable meetings to happen.

Should we be stopping everything that is a non - worship activity?

The advice for this is the same as advice for meetings.

Meetings should not happen face to face. We need to do all that we can to encourage people to stay indoors.  If a meeting is urgent, we recommend that you consider using phone/video conferencing to enable meetings to happen. 

What do we do about groups and individuals hiring our church buildings? Should we ask them to stop?

As we are not using our church buildings for our normal gatherings for worship or private prayer, hire to other groups or denominations must, logically, also be suspended. However, where a church or hall is used as a base for social care such as a Food bank, it will be important to arrange continued access. Please see guidance above on food banks.

Do I need a license to live stream a service?

Church of England guidance says:

Those wishing to live-stream via platforms such as Facebook and YouTube should be covered by the existing licensing agreements in place with those platforms. Please ensure you follow the terms of use and copyright requirements of each respective platform.

If a church wishes to host a live-stream on their own website then they can apply for a Limited Online Music Licence (LOML).

A church wishing to sing and play live music on a live or pre-recorded video on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are able to without applying for a licence as it is covered by the platform. The video is required to be ‘unbranded’.

If a backing track or a recorded song is played as part of the video, this is copyrighted material and a Limited Online Music Licence (LOML) should be applied for.

If the video is embedded from YouTube, as the host of the video, the platforms licence covers this.

If the video is hosted on the church website, the church would need to apply for a licence (see below).

One Licence are offering one-month free licence until April 15 2020.

PRS offer Limited Online Music Licences for one year from £150.

As a church, we employ people.  What should we do at the moment?

We know that each context is very different and that local PCCs are the employer.  Decisions about PCC employees need to be made locally. 

We usually have outside events during Holy Week.  Should they go ahead? (30/03)

The suspension of public worship includes worship outdoors.

Chelmsford Diocese will be publishing a range of 'Holy Week at Home' resources to help parishes encourage worship at home during Holy Week.


We are continuing to work on answers to additional FAQs.

Coronavirus advice from:

Chelmsford Diocese

Church of England

For more information please contact The Diocese Communications team
Is there anything wrong with this page?