BIll Boon has forwarded this question and answer information about public and private worship.
Can we use ash on Ash Wednesday?
Yes, with some changes to typical practice. If words are customarily said at the imposition1 , these words are spoken to the whole congregation before the imposition begins. The minister imposing the ashes should sanitize hands immediately before the imposition of ashes begins. Standing at arm’s length from the recipient and wearing a face mask, the minister sprinkles the ashes on each recipient’s head without touching them or speaking any words. If the minister accidentally touches the recipient, they must sanitize hands again. The temptation should be resisted to use a singleuse implement to apply ash to the forehead. If ash is being produced locally, this should be done in a hygienic manner. Consideration should be given that, on this occasion, the ash will be sprinkled and not daubed: the addition of oil may not be necessary. The imposition of ash in places other than the church or churchyard is not recommended. Ministers may wish to encourage the imposition of ash within households, especially if public worship is not taking place. Instructions for making ash (whether from palm crosses or something else) can be shared with congregations. 2. Can small groups meet, and can talks be given that are not part of public worship? Such groups are not currently permitted to meet in public buildings or private homes (including vicarages) unless they are support groups. Gatherings in church must be for ‘communal worship’. 3. Can the Stations of the Cross be used? If the Stations of the Cross are being prayed in person, people should not gather around the stations, touch them, or walk between stations. Physical distancing must be preserved. It may be helpful to take pictures of the stations which can be shared on a screen or in a handout, whether people are gathered online or in church. 1 See Common Worship: Times and Seasons, p. 230
Can palm crosses be distributed?
Yes. If palm crosses are being made locally, this should be done in a hygienic manner. Crosses could be enclosed in envelopes to avoid too much contact when they are collected or distributed. Households could make their own palm crosses from palm leaves, paper, or some other material following instructions from the Internet. Paper or other crosses could be affixed to windows of homes. Following long precedent, other kinds of natural foliage could also be used instead of palm crosses.
Can the ‘Chrism Mass’ / Distribution of Oils / Renewal of Commitment to Ministry happen this year?
Yes, as long as the guidance for public worship is followed if they are happening in person, including the observance of local limits on attendance. Bishops and cathedrals may wish to find alternative means of renewing commitments and distributing oils, in addition to a service or other gathering online. If oils are distributed, they should be hygienically bottled in advance and handled a minimum number of times.
Can the Easter Candle be marked / carried around?
Yes. A minimum number of people should handle the Easter Candle.
Can the Exsultet (the Easter Song of Praise) be sung?
Yes, as long as the guidance for singing in places of worship is observed.
Nobody may leave or be outside the place where they are living without ‘reasonable excuse’. Reasonable excuse includes leaving home to attend a place of worship. No indoor gatherings of 2 or more people unless all involved are from the same household or 2 linked households. No outdoor gatherings of 2 or more people – except in certain public outdoor places, in which case 2 people may gather – unless all involved are from the same household or 2 linked households.
Public worship in church, churchyard or other premises where church services are routinely held
Permitted as ‘communal worship’ provided that any person attending is: • alone or • part of a group all from the same household or from two linked households and must not join any other group or mingle with any person from another group. A statutory risk assessment must be carried out and all reasonable measures taken to limit risk of transmission of coronavirus.
Individual prayer in church
Church service in a public outdoor place that is not a churchyard or other outdoor church premises
Weddings in church
Permitted provided the gathering consists of no more than 6 persons. A statutory risk assessment must be carried out and all reasonable measures taken to limit risk of transmission of coronavirus. Government advice is that weddings should currently take place only in exceptional circumstances, such as where one or both persons are seriously ill and not expected to recover. Wedding receptions are not permitted.
Funerals in church, churchyard, cemetery or crematorium
Permitted provided the gathering consists of no more than 30 persons. A statutory risk assessment must be carried out and all reasonable measures taken to limit risk of transmission of coronavirus. Related activities, such as the burial of ashes, are also permitted provided the gathering consists of no more than 6 people.
Baptism and confirmation (in the context of communal worship, whether or not a regular service)
The same as for public worship in church, churchyard or other premises where church services are routinely held (see above).