Methodist Church Coronavirus Guidance updated 24March
The Methodist Church is announcing a 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 to operate as safely as possible from central bodies such as the Trussell Trust or IFAN. In the first instance ensure that those at high risk are not volunteering and put at risk, minimise contact and observe social distancing, ensure people do not remain on the premises but take food away quickly and think through all your processes to minimise all unnecessary person to person contact. There should be no-one on the premises who doesn't need to be there.
We would encourage people who lead services to think about how worship might be offered in different ways, including online and using worship at home sheets.
In terms of Church business, we recommend that 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 we will advise on how essential business will be carried out. We will be issuing further advice on this.
Other community activities:
Foodbanks and night shelters: If your church runs a foodbank or night shelter please take notice of all the advice that has been given by the Government and the NHS. If you are concerned about older volunteers we advise that (in line with the guidance) they should stay at home. The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) have produced a simple guide on how you can support foodbanks during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Trussel Trust has also issued guidance on how churches can support volunteer supported charities.
Other community events like lunch clubs, after school clubs, playgroups and fellowship groups should be suspended.
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.
Can we hold baptisms, wedding and funerals?
There will be no baptisms until further notice because of the closure of churches. In case of an emergency please contact your Minister.
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: email@example.com
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. Groups can look at how to continue using online means.
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. Download the Employment FAQs document 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 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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)
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 email@example.com 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
A message of thanks and support
Here at Methodist Church House we 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
There is Government advice for travellers returning from various countries, including Italy. For latest guidance please click here.
If you have any questions regarding the Methodist Church and coronavirus, please email email@example.com
We will continue to pray for all those affected, mindful that
"God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love" (2 Timothy 1:7)