31 October, letter from Bishop Steven

To: all the clergy and people of the Diocese of Oxford

31 October 2020


“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43.2)

We need to hold firmly to our faith and hope in Christ at this time and care for our communities with all the love which God supplies. Thank you for all you have done already through the COVID pandemic.

The Prime Minister has announced a second national lockdown this evening from 5th November to 2nd December. We could well be entering the most difficult phase of the pandemic. Many will be anxious and exhausted. The Church needs to be strong and, as much as we can, continue to be a light shining in the darkness.

The government guidance published this evening is that people should only leave home for certain limited reasons, and they do not include attending public worship. The guidance makes clear that weddings and civil partnership ceremonies will not be permitted to take place except in exceptional circumstances.

Places of worship will be closed from 5th November, unless they are being used for: funerals; broadcasting acts of worship; individual prayer; essential voluntary and public services. Full details are now available online

As a Diocese, we will issue further guidance as soon as we can next week, but you should now start preparing to offer exclusively online worship for this second lockdown period. Remember that Church at Home continues every Sunday at 10 am. Please do make use of this provision if you cannot offer virtual worship in your parish/benefice at short notice.

The government may have moved on from the Rule of Six, but the guidance we offered on living well in the next six months remains valid. Especially we need to fix our horizon now on Easter and lean back into the rich resources of the Church year, and remember to watch over ourselves so we can continue to care for others.

I’m beginning a series of Bishop’s Webinars this week focussed on rebuilding through and after the pandemic and look forward to listening to many different experiences from across the Diocese. Please do sign up here if you are able.

Churches, schools and chaplaincies have been amazing through this most difficult of years in dedication and commitment, built on the service of tens of thousands of teachers, clergy, lay ministers, officers, wardens and volunteers.

Please know that you are held in prayer and in the vast love of God and keep going.

In Christ,