Coronavirus guidance for churches

LATEST ADVICE

Updated: Monday 1 March 2021 - 10:00

  • New FAQ:  What advice is available for undertaking APCMs in 2021?

 

Statement:  Coronavirus reopening roadmap

On Monday 22 February 2021 the Prime Minister made an announcement about how and when the government intend current restrictions to be eased.

Full details of the Government Plan can be found in this document: COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021

The national lockdown continues until Monday 8 March 2021 and no changes to the existing restrictions will be made prior to that point.

As the incremental easing of restrictions takes place the diocesan website will be updated in order to reflect the latest advice and guidance that emerges from the Government and the Church of England.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


 

Can public worship take place in our churches?

(Updated:  5 January 2021)

Public Worship is permitted in a church, churchyard or other premises where church services are routinely held 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

The organiser must carry out a statutory risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit risk of transmission of https://www.churchofengland.org/media/20510

 

 

Is it permitted not to open our churches for public worship at the present time?

(Updated: 5 January 2021)

The Government have given an explicit exemption to the national lockdown restrictions to enable our churches to remain open for public worship.  This is supported by the Church of England and endorsed by Bishop David.

Ensuring our buildings are Covid-19 Secure is a requirement for public worship to take place and it is a legal requirement for a risk assessment to be undertaken and for appropriate mitigations to be in place.  It continues to be necessary for measures to be taken to ensure that public worship can be conducted safely at this time.

Parishes are reminded that:

  • Statute permits public communal worship therefore canon law requires it. However we only need to open one church building for public worship in each benefice or plurality.
  • Worship may look, sound and feel different to what we are used to.  
  • The requirements for Holy Communion are quite detailed and it may be that not every service will be Eucharistic.
  • It is important to plan well, in order that everyone feels confident that we can worship together safely.

 

Bishop David has confirmed that:

(a) In a situation whereby a PCC (which will include an incumbent if the  Parish is not in vacancy) have conducted a risk assessment and in conclusion believe they cannot conduct worship safely in their building, then the procedures set out in the summer still apply.   

These procedures are as follows:

SHORT TERM - If it is likely to be only a matter of a few weeks before at least one church in a benefice may be able to hold the normally required public services then that matter can be dealt with by the minister and each of the PCCs (without the need to consult the bishop).  The minister and the PCCs should set out the arrangements in a formal resolution

LONGER TERM - If it will not be possible for at least one church in a benefice to hold the normally required public services for an extended period of time, the minister and PCC of each parish in the benefice should make a joint request to the Bishop for dispensation.

 

(b) If clergy (or members of their household or bubble) are personally at risk, then they should make alternative provision for worship to be led, in which Bishop David  would include Communion by Extension (as suggested for Christmas Day), again following existing procedures.

 

The Church of England have developed a full advice document that includes suggested forms of words to assist – it is accessible via this document: 

COVID-19 Restarting public worship: some legal questions and answers

 

Is Individual Private Prayer Permitted in our churches?

(Updated: 5 January 2021)

Yes, it is permitted for our churches to be open for individual private prayer at this time.

 

Is it okay to worship public outdoor space that is not a churchyard?

(Updated: 5 January 2021)

No. This is not permitted.

 

Is singing permitted during acts of worship?

(New FAQ – 12 January 2021)

The Church of England have updated their advice regarding singing at this time (in light of government advice): 

  • Where singing or chanting is essential to an act of worship, this should be limited to one person wherever possible. Exceptionally, where it is essential to the service, up to three individuals should be permitted to do so.
  • Strict social distancing should be observed and the use of Plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect worshippers, and each other
  • Communal singing should not take place. This applies even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are being worn.

 


What advice is available regarding Holy Communion?

(Updated: 30 December 2020)

The Church of England Guidance for the administration of Holy Communion is available here: Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion

The Church of England have now published advice about Receiving Holy Communion in both kinds by simultaneous administration it is available at this link.

 

What advice is available regarding Funerals?

(Updated: 5 January 2021)

Funerals must have no more than 30 people in attendance, and physical distancing should be strictly adhered to.

Anyone working (eg: the officiant, a verger/churchwarden, an organist) is not included as part of the numerical limit. 

The Church of England guidance in relation to funerals was updated on 17 August 2020: Advice for Conducting Funerals.

The aim of this advice is to support clergy and others who take funerals. Every parish and each church building is different and there can be no single solution.

Parishes and clergy will need to assess how, and in some cases whether, they are able to conduct funerals safely in the light of the advice below. This advice follows government guidance which may change and, if so, will be updated accordingly.

Burial of ashes is permitted. If a service does go forward, similar advice will apply with regard to social distancing and hygiene; and managing the numbers of mourners.

“MUST” means this is enforceable by law.

 

What advice is available regarding Weddings?

(Updated: 23 February 2021)

At the present time (during the national lockdown) the following applies:

Weddings are permitted provided the gathering consists of no more than 6 persons. The organiser must carry out a statutory risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit risk of transmission of coronavirus, as described in the guidance available.

The number includes the bride and groom.  Physical distancing should be strictly adhered to.

Anyone working (eg:  the officiant, a verger/churchwarden, an organist) is not included as part of the numerical limit. 

“MUST” means this is enforceable by law.

The government advice is that weddings should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.

The Church of England updated their detailed advice document on conducting weddings: Advice for clergy conducting weddings.

Those observing the wedding, who should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space. The bride, groom and the officiant are not required to wear a face covering.

The announcement made by the Prime Minister on 22 February 2021 outlined the following:

  • From 8 March - Weddings will still be able to proceed with 6 attendees only but will no longer be limited to exceptional circumstances;
  • No earlier than 12 April - Weddings will be able to take place with up to 15 attendees;
  • No earlier than 17 May - Weddings can proceed with up to 30 attendees; and
  • No earlier than 21 June - All limits on weddings and other life events to be removed, subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme.

In order to further assist with enquiries that are being received from couples who are seeking to plan their weddings an information sheet has been prepared which contains additional advice and guidance. This has been produced by Donna Myers and can be accessed here: Marriage services during the pandemic (February 2021)

This document reflects the information and guidance that is currently available.   It will be reviewed and updated as the government and Church of England publish further, specific advice.

 

Can banns be read during public worship?

(Updated: 30 November 2020)

Yes – if the church is open for public worship it is perfectly appropriate for banns of marriage to be read.

 

Can Baptisms take place? 

(Updated: 30 December 2020)

Baptisms can go ahead providing appropriate steps are taken to minimise risk.

If the baptism takes place as part of communal worship, there is no numerical cap – but the maximum number of attendees must not exceed the number that the building can safely accommodate whilst remaining covid-19 secure.

The Government recognises that communal worship comes in all shapes and sizes with some regular services as well as some additional services that mark important milestones in the faith calendar – with this in mind if a church arranges an additional service (that other members of the church are free to attend) for a baptism to take place then attendance is not subject to the rule of six.

The Church of England have updated the guidance on baptisms: Advice for Clergy Conducting Baptisms which provides detailed information and advice which is intended to assist clergy as they think through the best way of celebrating baptism.

Full immersion baptism is permitted. Planning must take place to ensure that:

  • Those being immersed should be at least 2 metres away from the congregation and officiants at all times, except while they are being immersed.
  • Only one person should be immersed at any time and they should only be attended by a single officiant/clergy member.
  • During the immersion, physical contact should be avoided apart from clergy/the officiant placing their hands on the head of the person being immersed.
  • Clergy/the officiant should wash their hands after each person is immersed, or if this isn’t possible they should use hand sanitiser

 

Can Confirmations take place? 

(Updated: 30 December 2020)

Yes.  Confirmations are permitted to take place. Detailed guidance, published by the Church of England is available via the following link: Advice for the conduct of Confirmation services

Any parishes that are seeking to have confirmation services should contact the office of the relevant Bishop to make the appropriate arrangements.

 


What advice is available regarding Lent, Holy Week and Easter?

(New FAQ – 20 January 2021)

The Church of England have published a helpful document:

COVID-19 Advice for Services during Lent, Holy Week, and Easter

This provides advice regarding various matters relating to Lent, Holy Week and Easter including:

  • Use of Ash on Ash Wednesday
  • Distribution of Palm Crosses
  • Outdoor Services, Processsions and Walks of Witness
  • Foot Washing
  • Venerating the Cross

(note this list is not exhaustive)

 


Is it a requirement for our churches to have Covid-19 Risk Assessment in place?

 (Updated: 30 November 2020)

Yes.

For our church buildings to be open we need to have conducted a risk assessment.

The latest version of the risk assessment template was published on 6 November 2020: https://www.churchofengland.org/media/20510

The Safer Churches document also illustrates safe ways to manage the flow of people into and out of the building while noting that corporate worship and some of the other activities it mentions are not possible at this time.

Parishes are reminded that under existing Health & Safety legislation, failure to complete a risk assessment that accounts for Covid-19 could constitute a breach of that legislation, as could having a risk assessment with insufficient measures.

The actions the enforcing authority can take include the provision of specific advice to employers to support them to achieve the required standard, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements. Serious breaches and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years.

 

Is it necessary for face coverings to be worn in churches? 

(Updated: 11 August 2020)

Face coverings are now required by law to be worn in a greater number of public indoor settings. This includes places of worship.

Worshippers should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space.

There are valid exemptions for some individuals and groups not to wear a face covering in these settings:

  • Those who are leading services or events in a place of worship and those who assist them (for instance by reading, preaching or leading prayer) do not always need to wear a face covering. A face covering should be worn especially when physical distanced cannot be maintained (ie distributing consumables).

  • Government guidance indicates some health, age, or equality reasons for which people may not be expected to wear face coverings.

  • Clergy and ministers are encouraged to be sensitive to the needs of those who rely on lip reading, facial expressions, or clear sound.

  • Other assisting ministers should wear a face covering at all times, except:

    • when proclaiming a reading or leading prayers, or when leading another part of the service, provided that they are able to maintain physical distancing from other individuals whilst doing so (i.e. at a lectern);

    • when receiving Holy Communion

The Church of England published an advice document that is available to download: Advice on Face Coverings

 

What do churches need to do about Test and Trace

 (Updated: 22 September 2020)

New regulations relating to Test and Trace were introduced from 18 September 2020.

The Government have stated that places of worship should keep a record of those who have attended to facilitate NHS Test and Trace.

Providing information for Test and Trace is voluntary. If somebody informs you that they do not want to provide their details to be shared for the purposes of NHS Test and Trace, they can choose to opt out.

The detailed advice note that all churches are encouraged to read (published in August 2020) remains current for now: NHS Test & Trace Data.

As are the following templates:

Test and Trace Consent Form

Test and Trace online privacy notice template

Test and Trace privacy notice template

Greater Manchester Combined Authority have conveyed a request from the NHS that public venues, such as places of worship, display a QR code to aid in Test and Trace, to support app that was launched in September 2020.

Download Introducing the NHS covid-19 App

Download How to create a QR poster for your venue

 

What happens if somebody who has attended church tests positive for Covid-19?

(New FAQ: 15 September 2020)

The person who tested positive will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace. They will determine who the "contacts" are of that person by asking them where they went etc.

There are criteria as to who would be a "contact". They are set out in the government guidance document about Test and Trace.

A ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from 2 days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). For example, a contact can be:

  • people who spend significant time in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 sexual partners a person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, including:

    • being coughed on

    • having a face-to-face conversation within one metre 

    • having skin-to-skin physical contact, or contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact 

    • a person who has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes 

    • a person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 

    • Where an interaction between 2 people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact such as any of those indicated above.

If you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, then you will be notified by the NHS Test and Trace service via text message, email or phone.

If you have not been notified that you are a contact, this means you do not need to self-isolate and should follow the general guidance, for example, social distancing, hand-washing, and covering coughs and sneezes.

 

What are the first steps we should take if we believe there has been a local outbreak?

(New FAQ: 11 August 2020)

The government has produced an action card. It includes all relevant steps that should be followed.

Download action card.

 


Is there any updated advice regarding recording church attendance for schools admissions purposes?

(New FAQ: 25 November 2020)

Yes.  On 24 November 2020 Deborah Smith produced a document that gives advice and information – it can be accessed here: School Admissions Advice Update November 2020.

Notes for Clergy on the variation to Admission Arrangements for many Church of England Schools and Academies following the closure of church buildings for public worship.

 


Is ministering to the sick and dying permissible within the community?

(Updated: 5 January 2021)

Ministering to the sick and dying is permitted on the basis that it constitutes work purposes of the provision of voluntary or charitable services.

One of the church’s most important areas of ministry is pastoral care. The usual ways of undertaking this have been very significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst innovative ways are being found to keep in touch and offer care, the usual route of face to face visiting has not been possible in most situations. This has been challenging and distressing for very many clergy and lay ministers as well as for those who receive such care.

The Church of England has now produced specific guidance giving Advice on pastoral support in the community, including care homes.

 


Is it permissible for community activities to take place in church buildings and other church-owned property?

(Updated: 11 January 2021)

The law only permits a very limited number of community activities to take place in our churches and other church owned property (eg: church halls) at the present time.  

Full details are available in this document: COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship and special religious services and gatherings during the pandemic

The permitted activities are as follows:

Registered childcare

  • where this is provided by a person registered on the Early Years Register under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006
  • where the child concerned is eligible to attend (as the child of a critical worker or a vulnerable child)
  •  
  • where the place of worship is used as part of a school

For supervised activities for children:

  • These activities are permitted to continue where the child concerned is eligible to attend (as the child of a critical worker or a vulnerable child)
  • Numbers should be limited to the number of people who can safely socially distance in the venue in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance. See guidance on providers of out-of-school settings.
  • providing essential voluntary services or public support services, including digital access to public services, medical treatment, the provision of food bank or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation services or support in an emergency 
  • Support groups that have to be delivered in person with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support.  

This includes, but is not limited to, support to victims of crime, people in drug and alcohol recovery, new parents and guardians, people caring for those with long-term or terminal illnesses, or who are vulnerable, people facing issues relating to their sexuality or gender, those who have suffered bereavement, and vulnerable young people, including for them to meet youth workers.

The following activities (that were previously permitted) are currently NOT permitted:

  • Parent and Child Groups
  • Youth Services

The government have strengthened the regulations in respect to Test and Trace in community facilities.  The latest guidance states:

“we are now mandating that these sectors must ask one member of every party who accesses their services to provide their contact details through NHS Test and Trace. You must have a system to ensure that you can collect contact information for your visitors in place.

Any local authority service or community facility that is found not to be compliant with these regulations will be subject to financial penalties. It is vital that you comply with these regulations to help keep people safe, and to stay open.”

With this in mind the diocese advises:

  • Individual PCCs must determine if their premises can be used by other user groups, to undertake activities that are permitted by law and are in line with government regulations.   
  • Individual PCCs must ensure that measures are in place in order to comply with the mandatory requirement to have a Test and Trace system in place

 


What advice is available for undertaking APCMs in 2021?

(New FAQ – 1 March 2021)

There has been no extension to the deadline of 31 May 2021 for holding the annual meetings this year. Accordingly the annual meeting of parishioners to elect churchwardens for the year 2021-2022 and the APCM to elect PCC members must take place before the end of May.

Given that we will still be subject to restrictions on social contact during the period in which annual meetings are required to take place, these will once again need to be held virtually or at least partly so.

As the Church Representation Rules do not make provision for this and the instrument issued by the Bishop to authorise remote meetings last year was limited solely to the 2020 meetings, the Bishop has signed the attached instrument

This  enables the meeting of parishioners and the annual meeting to be held either entirely remotely or as a “hybrid" arrangement, whereby some attendees might be present in person and others via virtual means i.e. by telephone conference, video conference, live webcast and live interactive streaming etc. Whichever arrangement is used, a person is to be regarded as present at the meeting if the person is able to hear and be heard, and where practicable see and be seen, by the other persons present. Any required vote to be taken at the meeting may be by such method as determined by the Chair. Provision is also made to enable any extraordinary or special meeting which may be required to be held before restrictions are fully lifted to likewise be conducted in a remote manner.

Should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact Donna Myers at the Diocesan Registry (dm@mandioreg.co.uk or 07395 322707).

 


Can parishes hold PCC meetings in person?

(Updated: 5 January 2021 )

No.

Physical meetings are not permitted. 

Parochial church councils can, if they wish, meet using virtual means such as Skype or Zoom which enable the members to see and hear each other. (Zoom and other platforms also allow people to participate using a conventional landline or basic mobile phone, using the dial in facility. You don’t have to have a webcam and microphone, nor a smart phone.)

However, care must be taken so that members of a PCC who are unable to participate in a meeting in that way are not excluded from the PCC’s deliberations and decision making. The Chair should take steps to ensure that they are able to participate so far as possible, including where necessary by means of the procedure for conducting business by correspondence set out in rule M29 of the Church Representation Rules.

It is recommended that following a virtual meeting, decisions such as the authorising of expenditure, entering into contracts or those that require a formal resolution of the PCC are put in written form and circulated for formal approval under the correspondence procedure in rule M29, which under Rule 76 can be conducted by email.

 


Can bible studies or home groups meet?

(Updated: 5 January 2021)

No.  Homegroups or other meetings taking place in private homes (including vicarages) are not permitted.

 


Is it possible to undertake construction work at churches?

(Updated 9 December 2020)

Yes. It is possible to carry out construction work. The guidance provided by the  Church of England should be followed:

Guidance for PCCs, incumbents and cathedral Chapters: opening church buildings for works to the building and interior

This guidance document contains a link to an editable version of a template risk assessment for use by parishes when considering access for contractors and construction workers.

 

Has the Faculty Jurisdiction been suspended?

(Updated: 10 November 2020)

No, faculty jurisdiction has not been suspended. If the works concerned require faculty or List B approval, this is still needed and you must not proceed without the necessary approval being in place.

Where a need to undertake urgent repairs arises, please contact your Archdeacon in the first instance. If an interim faculty approval is necessary, the Archdeacon will contact the Registry and permission will be sought from the Chancellor. Please be aware that the Chancellor has already indicated that he will need to be persuaded that an interim faculty is the only option open to the parish concerned.

Specific advice regarding the display of public notices for faculty applications has now been received from the Chancellor – it is available via this link.

 


PASTORAL SUPPORT DURING THE CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY

A new page offers practical advice and online resources to help you take care of yourself as you care for others during the pandemic

PASTORAL SUPPORT PAGE


GREATER MANCHESTER REMEMBERS

Greater Manchester Remembers is an online space to honour those that have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic who have lived in, or have a link to, Greater Manchester.

BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE


PRAYERS

A number of resources are available at www.ChurchofEngland.org/PrayerForTheNation.

A prayer for those who mourn
Gracious God,
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
Amen

A prayer from an Assistant Head Teacher in Burnage

Dear Lord, at this time we pray for school leaders that you will give them peace and wisdom to make the right decisions. Help them to manage the demands of the government, with the needs of the children, the needs and wants of parents and the desires of staff. Help all who work in schools to stay safe as they currently care for the children of key workers and vulnerable children and work towards the next steps of reopening. 

We pray for peace for all those anxious about the reopening of schools potentially from 1st June and the risks that carries with it. We pray that the right decisions will be made. We ask for good discussions to take place between the government and the teaching unions and that there will be positive outcomes from these. 

We give thanks that some families have been able to spend quality time together during lockdown. We also pray for those families who have found lockdown challenging; for some because they are struggling to meet the needs of their children; for others who are balancing trying to work from home whilst also home educating their children; while others are facing financially difficulty or suffering from ill health. 

We give thanks for the many different agencies that have supported schools as they continue to meet the wide ranging needs of their communities and we pray that the new partnerships formed will go from strength to strength. 

Overall we pray, Lord, that you will protect the children in our schools and keep them well in body and in mind and we pray that we will overcome this virus so that children can return to school safely. Lord in your mercy; Hear our prayer.


 

A prayer from a school governor

“They just talk and talk”. Lord, this is what teachers have found when children have recently joined the provision for key workers having been at home for weeks. 

Father of us all, our children are suffering. Adults in their homes may be too busy to talk to them. They miss their friends and they miss just talking. They are under-stimulated.

Lord, bring healing to body, mind and soul of our children especially as they start to return to school and give staff great skill in supporting and helping these children as they rediscover relationships outside the home and talk and talk.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 


 

A prayer for those working from home

Father of creation, the structure and the shape of our days are so different. 

There are so many distractions at home and there is a huge temptation to spend more time working than we did before lockdown.

Help us to use our time wisely, to invest in the relationships most important to us and to take proper breaks. 

May we rediscover a new shape to our days that is centred and guided by your Spirit.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 




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