COVID-19 Briefing 20/10

“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept” – these words from Ps 137 keep coming to mind (I am desperately trying to resist the tune from Boney M!).  It speaks to me of profound sadness that I feel at the moment with the way things are, just as the people of God experienced an even deeper sadness going into exile.   There are other experiences that we have in common with the exiles.   In the overthrow of Judah and Jerusalem many would have died, so we too are lamenting those we have lost to Covid.   They had lost their temple, so we too have lost our ‘normal’ worship.  They had lost their culture, to a large extent so have we.   They had lost their leaders; our national leaders are struggling.  Materially they had lost everything, many in our communities are losing their jobs.  They were disorientated and discombobulated – and so are many of us. 
And so, lament we should and we shouldn’t rush that.  But the Exiles then did some deep theological reflection, going back to the scriptures as they were then, leading to spiritual renewal.  How will our own theological reflection and spiritual renewal echo that of the exiles?   I have recently heard some drawing on Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles (Jer 29).  For me, I will be turning to the Psalms.  The fifth book of the Psalms from Ps 107 seems to be put together for those in exile.   I won’t give it all away, but to give you a taster –  Psalms 120-134 are the songs of ascent – sung by the pilgrim people of God as they approach Jerusalem to worship at the temple, culminating with the two hallelujah psalms 135 & 136.  And then crisis – Ps 137.  But Psalms 138 resolves the crisis by going back to David and we are reminded that the temple was for his Name but he dwells in the heavens, and he is sovereign over all the nations, not least Babylon.   Psalm 139 reminds us that Temple or no Temple, there is no place we can go where God is not present and he watches over us.  What rich truths came out of the exile!  (For more on this, see
My prayer is that in this crisis, in all the demands laid upon us, we might carve out the time to turn to God, to really spend time with him, to lament and do the deep theological reflection that in time, we might know spiritual renewal.    

Peter Harwood

Critical Reading

Tier 1/2/3 Guidance (including at a glance table)

The Church of England website updates on public worship, baptisms and funerals. It also has an ‘at a glance’ table for various regular activities that you might be planning at the moment. This at a glance guide covers what is permissible at different levels, and what needs to be modified at the different Tier levels. You might find this helpful. Start here for the latest guidance. Private baptisms are now limited to building capacity, and the details have been amending in the light of the tier 2/3 guidance from the government.

As ever the latest news is found on our Facebook group.

Can we still hold a Remembrance Sunday Service? 

Yes. If the service is to take place within a church, please follow the guidelines on public worship. If there is an outdoor element to the service, but still on church owned land, please follow the outdoor worship guidance on the Government’s Places of Worship guidance. Public worship is permitted in all three tiers, but social distancing guidance is different in each of the three tiers, so please check you comply with this.

If the service is taking place at a public memorial, not on church owned land, please see the Government’s guidance for Local Authorities on Remembrance Sunday and the section on outdoor worship in the Government’s Places of Worship guidance. You will need to contact your local authority for permission to conduct any service not on church owned land, their permission and advice will be appropriate to the tier the service will take place in. The guidance stresses that numbers should be kept to a minimum, there should be no communal singing and that social distancing guidelines should be maintained. Please ensure your arrangements for social distancing are appropriate to the tier your parish is currently in.  

Following our APCM how should we send copies of our Annual Report and Financial Statements to the DBF?

Church House Guildford is currently not being used on a regular basis as staff are working from home, please do not send hard copies of Annual Reports or Financial Statements through the post. Please send through an electronic copy to

If you would usually sent a document through the post please check with the recipient whether they would still like you to do so, for example cheques should not longer be sent to Church House, but instead an electronic payment arranged.

For your information 

Licensed Lay Ministers

Last Saturday (17th October), 9 Lay Ministers were newly-licensed by Bishop Andrew for ministry in the Diocese of Guildford, in two separate services at St Thomas-on-the-Bourne, Farnham.  While the numbers physically attending the service had to be heavily restricted, hundreds were able to participate in these celebrations through live-streaming.

Please welcome Philippa Baker, Kester de Oliveira, Keith Harper, Trevor Lewis, Graeme Lodge, Louisa Mason, Jane Quicke, Andrew Shaw and Christine Acock to lay ministry in our Diocese. 

Sunday Sermons – a choice this week

We are encouraging a focus on sermons from the Transforming Generosity resources during October, though our bishops will continue to offer a lectionary sermon each week.

Transforming Generosity Sunday Sermon

During October the Transforming Generosity sermons can be used and are in a playlist on YouTube.
This week, Bishop Jo preaches Luke 21:1-4 – The Widow’s Might

Sermon video: The Rt Revd Dr Jo Bailey Wells, Bishop of Dorking

Sermon transcript (Word)

Service outline (Word)

Service template (Powerpoint)

Sunday Sermon

In this Sunday’s lectionary sermon, Bishop Jo preaches from Matthew 22:34-46 on the theme of Loving God, neighbour AND self.

Have you signed up to this week’s Wednesday Webinar? 

Join Bishop Jo this Wednesday with co-leader to the Revd Dr Mark Earey, The Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham

Is spiritual communion a sacrament? What is lost when there’s no common cup? How do we gather around the table together when some are in church and others online? These and other questions of our times will be explored by Bishop Jo in conversation with the Revd Mark Earey.

More Wednesday Webinars launched until December

Please check the timing of sessions, as some will be held in the afternoon and some in the evening. 

Wednesday 4th November – 2pm – 3pm –  Inviting people back to church 

Led by Michael Harvey, co-founder of Back to Church Sunday in the UK and developer of the concept of invitation as a mission tool.

How can we invite people from our online spaces into the face to face worship? How to we use the opportunities that we have to invite people to join us? 

Wednesday 11th November – 3pm-4pm – Contributing to the new normal

Bishop Andrew Watson will be joined by Bishop Henrik and others from our link Diocese in Viborg, Denmark.

The webinar will explore how the Church might contribute to the new normal, particularly in our own parishes and contexts post lockdown.

TBC Wednesday 18th November – 2pm-3pm – Online and all age services

With special guests Nick and Becky Drake from Gas Street Church in Birmingham.

Intergenerational worship is tough in normal times – how does one lead children and adults in worship? Online it can be even harder to get right. This is a workshop for creative ideas and learning from people who are doing it well.

Wednesday 25th November – 7.30 – 8.30 pm – Worship without singing

With special guests Sam and Sarah Hargreaves, who run the Music and Worship Foundation resourcing local churches for creative, innovative and world-changing worship; engaging with God, each other and the world around us

As we return to face to face worship, it is not currently permitted to sing. How can we practically plan worship that engages the whole congregation in communal worship in a way that is uplifting, creative and glorifying to God?

For the latest National guidance click here
For the latest Diocesan guidance click here
Next briefing will be issued on 28th October 2020