Funerals and ministers over 70

The Bishop of Birkenhead, and the Archdeacons of Macclesfield and Chester have today written to advise ministers over 70 that they should not be engaging in ministry which involves direct public contact, such as conducting funerals. 

Their letter reads: 

The Government advice for those who are over 70, even where they do not have underlying health conditions, is that they may be at increased risk from Coronavirus, and should therefore take especially strict care to observe the government guidance on social distancing.  The relevant guidance can be found here:

We are immensely grateful for the ministry of our clergy and lay ministers who are over 70, and we are very well aware that in normal circumstances, parishes rely heavily on their ministry, not least for funerals. However, our judgement is that in the present circumstances, for the sake of minimizing risk – not least to themselves – ministers over 70 should not be engaging in ministry which involves direct public contact, such as conducting funerals. This is in line with what other dioceses around the country are also saying. Clergy, readers and pastoral workers over 70 can of course still minister in lots of other ways – online, by phone, and so on.

We are aware that this will raise particular issues in the case of clergy who are over 70 and serving as incumbents or priests-in-charge. In those cases, clergy should endeavour to make arrangements for funeral cover to be provided with clergy in adjacent parishes.  Rural Deans might help to formalise these arrangements and work through any particular issues. If this proves difficult then please speak to the local Archdeacon.

We recognise that in normal circumstances, retired clergy would be receiving 80% of the ministerial fee for conducting funerals, and that asking retired clergy who are over 70 not to conduct services will have an impact on their income. But we hope that they will understand that we have taken this decision for public health reasons, and in line with government guidance. If any retired clergy are in particular financial difficulty, it is always open to them to apply for assistance from the Retired Clergy Fund (contact the retireds officers, Tricia Shuler in the Chester Archdeaconry and Bernard Sword in the Macclesfield Archdeaconry, in the first instance).

We look forward to the time when all our lay and ordained ministers over 70, whether licensed or with PTO, will once again be able to conduct the full range of their valuable ministry, which is hugely appreciated across the church and community.

Bishop Keith
Archdeacon Ian
Arcdeacon Mike

Page last updated: Wednesday 1st April 2020 6:13 PM
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