So far the Church of England is not coming out of this lockdown well. On June 15th the government announced that churches could be open for private prayer. This will not happen in our little local church until Saturday July 4th and then only for a tentative 2 hours monitored by our poor curate who has to follow orders from above. Just in case our wayward churchwardens get the wrong ideas they have been blessed with 13 pages of detailed guidance. This is “enriched” with the following:
- HM’s advice on cleanliness in the workplace
- A dedicated advice note on cleaning church buildings
- Advice on safely ringing bells
- Advice on cleaning surfaces that have been touched
- A “lone working assessment” for organists
- Central Council of Church Bellringers Guidance
- Guidance on gas safety inspections and boiler servicing
- Guidance on insurance cover
- And so on and on for four more pages
We are all told by HMG that churches may open fully after July 4th. If past performance is anything to go by, we can expect a belated set of more detailed guidelines from the church long after that date. A churchwarden tells me that one gem of a regulation is that the curate/minister must enter by a separate door to the rest of the congregation. We certainly expect that like opera houses we will be unable to sing.
Why is it that large organisations have to take comfort in large edifices of control and caution? In our tiny congregation and PCC we have senior company/organisation managers and directors with many times the experience and competence of the immediate clergy hierarchy. Yet they cannot be trusted to interpret (or possibly improve on) general directions and apply their common sense. How sad.
One area where to my great surprise there is very little control is the award of grants to small businesses. Readers of my previous posts will recall mention of a livery business in our village. We were encouraged to apply for financial help from our local council to offset the loss of business and extra costs from Covid 19. I filled in the form which was just one page requiring little more than name of the business, address and bank details. Five days later the grant arrived in our bank account. This remarkably simple process will undoubtedly be open to fraud and misuse by some and no doubt will be the subject of questioning from the Public Accounts Committee. On the plus side the process brings immediate relief to those that have needed it and illustrates how there does not have to be an edifice of monitoring and control.