Local pastoral guidelines for churches
This document provides a guiding protocol to help our churches respond sensitively and prayerfully to the death of our Sovereign.
When the news is announced:
As soon as possible after the news is officially released, within the parameters of your risk assessment,open the church building for public prayer and commemoration. It is very likely that people will be looking for a place to go to express feelings and respond in prayer – especially following the death of The Queen – possibly late into the evening, after the news is first announced.
Provision should be made for pastoral care of those who are grieving so that people can be
supported in their prayers and find comfort in their loss. Clergy and lay ministers should be available in the church within the parameters of your risk assessment. Remember to ensure that ministers are not left unaccompanied.
Each parish website, social media and public noticeboards should also publicise the pastoral
resources available on the National CofE website, the Diocese of Norwich website and the liturgical events offered by Norwich Cathedral.
Prayer and commemoration:
In compliance with public health guidance and within the parameters of your risk assessment:
• Set up a memorial space in the church building
• Show a picture of The Queen (there will be an official one available on the day of death via
www.royal.uk but if you have a local one, even if taken some time ago, it’s fine to use that as
it makes more of a local connection. There will be one available on the Diocese of Norwich
website too, on the day.
• Light the Paschal Candle or a large votive candle.
• Offer the opportunity for people to light votive candles and/or to write their own prayers or prayer requests.
Within the parameters of your risk assessment
• Arrange a table covered with a decent cloth, and sturdy upright chairs.
• Provide a book/pages of condolence and pens.
• After D+11, please send your condolence book sheets to Diocesan House (109 Dereham
Road, Easton, Norwich, NR9 5ES).
People coming for prayer and recollection may bring bunches of cut flowers to leave as a tribute. Consider where such flowers, with accompanying cards and toys, might be accommodated appropriately.
Also think ahead as to how such flowers will be removed when wilted, by whom, and where they can be discreetly disposed-of. It would be valuable if church officers were to detach cards and messages and keep these safe as a commemoration.
Prayers and public worship on the day of death and following days:
Authorised prayers will be released soon after the news of death is official on national and local CofE websites and social media.
At the first major public Act of Worship following the death, include authorised prayers and sing the National Anthem. It is correct to sing the new form (“God save the King”) from the moment that Her Majesty’s death is announced. It is wise to have the National Anthem printed out with the revised words. See Appendix1 This will also be available to download from the Diocese of Norwich website.
Communicate with Organist/Musicians to ensure the right tone and content for worship and with the Intercessor ensure the balance of the prayers.
For suggestions of appropriate liturgy, readings and hymns visit the Diocese of Norwich website or consult directly with the Precentor at Norwich Cathedral, The Revd Canon Aidan Platten on 01603 218300.
Flying of flags
Churches and public buildings with flag-poles should fly flags at half-mast as soon as possible after the announcement, as a sign of public mourning. The appropriate flag is the Union Flag (“Union Jack”) or the Cross of St George flag.
Flags will be flown at half-mast from D (the day of the death of the Monarch) until D+11(the day after the State Funeral) except that on D+1- “Proclamation Day” – flags are to be flown at full-mast from 11am until D+2 at 13:00, as the new Monarch is announced.
Half-mast means two-thirds of the way up the flagpole with at least the height of the flag between its top and the top of the pole. Full details will be posted on www.roval.gov.uk
The Central Council of Church Bellringers gives the following guidance:
On the announcement of death, bells, may be rung (muffled where possible) or tolled at the
discretion of local PCCs. They may be tolled for one hour. If the announcement occurs before 11am, bells toll at noon on day of death; if between 11am and 4pm: bells toll at 6pm on day of death, if after 4pm: bells toll at noon on the following day.
• Consider your homepage – social media content which can be used will be issued by the
National Church England.
• Social media posts – think about their content, whether it is appropriate for the national
mood; who should approve these and post them.
• Outdoor signage -what will help visitors who are not familiar with the church?
Planning in advance:
• Keep a stock of votive candles in the church.
• Obtain, and keep readily available, a good frame to hold the photo of HM The Queen.
• Ensure you have a book of condolence OR specially prepared single pages which can be
bound together later (these have been provided via Rural Deans). Books of condolence will
also be open at Diocesan House, Norwich Cathedral, King’s Lynn Minster and Great Yarmouth Minster.
Responses in schools and community groups
Working with schools
The death of the Sovereign is a unique occasion on which the parish church will want to meet their parishioners’ needs and to build, or even start new relationships, with local schools. Initial contact could be made with schools in your parish as soon as possible, after the death.
The letter in Appendix 2 outlines some suggestions for you to offer to your schools; obviously these would need to be tailored to your own situation and to what you feel able to manage, and could be adapted to a phone call, if necessary.
Further resources for collective worship will be available on the day on the Diocese of Norwich website.
Community groups and church community centres
This is an opportunity for the church to lead the way in facilitating a whole and cohesive community response.
The church is advised to prepare good publicity for this purpose which might include photos
alongside clear explanation of the provision that the local church is making. Such publicity might also be of use in other places where members of the local community gather.
Community workers are in an ideal position to use their community networks in the local
neighbourhood to promote the church’s response so that residents and staff from other agencies can be encouraged to participate in showing their respects, using the local church as the focus for these. Community workers may have strong connections with community groups e.g., older people, young people, migrant communities, and may, therefore, be in a useful position to advise clergy and church leadership teams on how best to create opportunities to enable such groups to pay their respects, and then co-ordinate appropriate activities.
The opportunities presented by digital communication and connection should be thoroughly explored and prepared, particularly in the light of any potential lockdown.
Where there is a community centre, clergy are encouraged, once the death is announced, to alert all centre staff to the arrangements that the church is putting in place and invite users and visitors to the centre to join in with these.
Involving interfaith communities will be contextual. As with all community engagement, compliance with Public Health Regulations should be foremost.
Consider the following opportunities:
• Visit local places of worship and invite members of other faith communities to come to
church to sign a book of condolence.
• Invite all the local faith leaders to gather to sign the book of condolence together at a
• Offer a photograph of Her Majesty the Queen to local faith communities.
• Write a media statement jointly with other faith leaders.
• Participate in commemoration activities run by other faith communities. Encourage the
congregation to attend.
Distinguish liturgical worship from a civic event: the latter gives leaders much more freedom if they are not acting as hosts or praying on consecrated land.
Consider the nature of prayer and worship when in the presence of other faith leaders: when in a church, make sure the focus of worship and prayers is always Christological/Trinitarian: we do not advocate “multi-faith worship”. Where appropriate to the context and existing local relations, it may be good to offer a space for local religious leaders to offer prayers as part of a community-wide observance but the fitting place for this would be outside of the liturgical worship setting of the usual Sunday service.
Useful guidelines can be sourced at the CofE Presence & Engagement webpages:
Further guidance & resources – national, local, civic & secular
• The Church of England’s website www.churchofengland.org (will include a Book of
Condolence for the Nation)
• Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI): www.ctbi.org.uk
• ACNY – A Church Near You: the National CofE team will upload accessible resources and
information immediately to the ACNY Resource Hub. Please ensure you are signed up to
this free platform. www.achurchnearyou.com/
• Cambridge University Press website: www.cambridge.org/
• The Royal Family website: www.royal.uk/
• Norwich Cathedral: www.cathedral.org.uk/
• Diocese of Norwich: www.dioceseofnorwich.org
• Norfolk County Council: https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/
• Norwich City Council: https://www.norwich.gov.uk/site/
• Broadland and South Norfolk: https://www.southnorfolkandbroadland.gov.uk/
• Great Yarmouth: https://www.great-yarmouth.gov.uk/
• King’s Lynn & West Norfolk: https://www.west-norfolk.gov.uk/
• North Norfolk: https://www.north-norfolk.gov.uk/
• Breckland: https://www.breckland.gov.uk/
• Suffolk: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/
• Find your MP: https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons
• Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk: email@example.com Twitter: @Norfolk_LL
Resources available for purchase
Books of Condolence, candles, prayer cards, etc. are readily available online.
Church House Publishing: https://www.churchpublishing.org/
CPO (Church Publishing & Outreach): https://www.cpo.org.uk/