Updated: Tuesday 17 May 2022, 15:30
Updated FAQ: Can the common cup now be shared? (This FAQ has been updated in line with new Church of England advice)
Statement regarding the lifting of Plan B Restrictions on 27 January 2022
The additional restrictions that were brought in under the Government’s Plan B are lifted from Thursday 27 January 2022 in England.
This is because the current situation across England is that while coronavirus is present in most communities we have a population where previous infections and the national vaccination programme means the majority of people have some immunity
It is acknowledged that the emergence of the omicron variant has highlighted the continued risk the virus poses but we are moving from a pandemic towards an endemic situation where emergency measures are not required.
However, places of worship may decide to bring in optional precautions based on their own risk assessment to protect others and themselves.
All website content has been reviewed and revised to reflect the new guidance document produced by the Church of England:
COVID-19 Opening and managing church buildings
The document seeks to highlight sensible measures that should apply to most church situations following the latest guidance from Government departments and public health bodies. It should be used to inform and support local decision making.
Bishop’s Leadership Team fully and whole heartedly support and endorse the statement made by Bishop Sarah Mullally, who has led the Church of England Covid response:
“As ‘plan B’ restrictions in England come to an end the future remains uncertain and we must continue to be cautious. In our churches government rules have been eased but I would still encourage congregations to consider what mitigation can best protect others. As we look now towards spring and the vivid demonstration of new life it offers us, my prayer is that we won’t forget what we’ve learnt; that we take this opportunity to thank others and that we look with hope to the future.”
Bishop’s Leadership Team recognise and acknowledge the anxiety that parishes and clergy in our diocese might feel as we move away from regulatory measures being in place. Senior clergy continue to be ready to offer support and have individual conversations as required.
AD David Sharples and Alison Moore continue to oversee our diocesan response to Covid-19 and will continue to deal with specific queries channelled via the dedicated email account: firstname.lastname@example.org
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
The following FAQs seek to assist parishes and clergy by highlighting particular advice relating to a number of specific matters that are known to be of particular concern across our diocese. The responses are informed by the information offered by the Church of England in the following document:
COVID-19 Opening and managing church buildings
The FAQ section is not exhaustive. Clergy and parishes are encouraged to refer to the guidance document for more detailed advice on a wider range of topics.
Q: Who makes the decision on what happens in church settings and at events held in church buildings?
A: The responsibility for making decisions about how to proceed lies with the incumbent.
This applies to acts of worship, to events run by the PCC or church community, and to decisions on whether to hire out spaces or allow other events to proceed.
Bishop’s Leadership Team encourages incumbents to reach out for support from, and work in collaboration with, their PCCs – using the content of risk assessments when making decisions for individual contexts.
Parishes in vacancy are encouraged to contact their Area Dean for advice and support.
Q: Is there guidance available to support the celebration of Holy Communion in a safe and appropriate way?
A: Yes. The Church of England guidance document (pages 6, 7 and 8) provides very detailed guidance. It is strongly recommended that this guidance is used to support local decisions.
Q: Can the common cup now be shared?
A: The Church of England have published updated guidance on the administration of Holy Communion to clarify that unless there are clear and objective reasons not to, Holy Communion should now be offered in both kinds to communicants.
The Church of England guidance document (specifically page 7) provides very specific guidance that will help when considering what might be “clear and objective reasons” for not offering Holy Communion in both kinds.
Q: Is singing now permitted?
A: Yes, singing and musical performances of all kinds are allowed in churches, including congregational singing, and choirs and worship groups can perform without legal limitations.
However, some activities can also increase the risk of catching or passing on coronavirus. This happens where people are doing activities which generate more particles as they breathe heavily, such as singing or raising their voices. The risk is greatest where these activities take place when people are in close contact with others indoors, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces. In these situations where there is a higher risk of catching or passing on the virus. It is advised that additional precautions should be considered.
Q: Do we still need to do a risk assessment?
A: This is part of keeping yourself, volunteers, staff and visitors safe.
It is acceptable to use the template and guidance provided in the government’s Events and Attractions guidance, or you can use the Church of England’s own template, whichever works best for your context. You can also create your own assessment or re-use a previous template so long as you ensure the assessment is up to date and regularly reviewed.
Q: Should a risk assessment be carried out ahead of a life event service taking place?
The numbers at life events (baptisms, weddings and funerals) are not mandated by law but potentially by the pre-pandemic capacity of the building.
There is an expectation by Government that people act responsibly in indoor spaces, particularly where large numbers of people are involved.
A risk assessment for the service may help to identify what additional measures would be most helpful and provide a clear rationale for decisions taken.
SOCIAL EVENTS AND BUILDING HIRE
Q: Are all activities now permitted in our church buildings and our church halls?
All and any events are legally permissible, as are any number of people gathering (so long as it is within the usual health and safety and fire safety capacity of the venue).
Q: Should risk assessments be undertaken by those hiring buildings/venues?
A: Yes, this is an important requirement for all events and venue hires and should continue.It is the activity being performed, rather than the building itself, which needs to be assessed for risk when running events.
The incumbent should satisfy themselves that they have seen a competent risk assessment for events, and check that those completing it have referred to the relevant guidance for their event or organisation.
Q: Is the wearing of face coverings mandatory in places of worship?
Face coverings are no longer mandatory in any setting but may be recommended in enclosed or crowded places, particularly where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet.
NHS COVID PASSES
Q: Is it necessary for an NHS COVID pass to be produced in order to attend an act of worship or a life event?
A: No. The NHS COVID pass is no longer mandatory for any event.
Q: Can/should we ask people if they have been vaccinated?
A: It is not a requirement, nor is it appropriate, to ask people if they have been vaccinated.
Q: Do the Church of England encourage people to have Covid-19 and Flu Vaccinations?
A: Yes. The Church of England’s position has been a clear policy of encouraging people to be vaccinated. This continues to be the policy.
NHS TEST AND TRACE
Q: Is it necessary to ask people to register for Test and Trace?
A: No. Places of worship are not legally required to display or ask people to register for NHS Test and Trace. You may still choose to display the QR code to offer people the chance to check in but you do not have to, and you cannot insist on people registering.
Q: What is the current guidance about cleaning?
A: Government guidance continues to remind us that increased frequency of cleaning of general room surfaces reduces the presence of the virus and the risk of contact transmission.
However unless notified specifically by NHS Test and Trace, there is no need to quarantine a building or individual items between uses/opening periods, so long as some form of cleaning of touchable surfaces is able to take place.
Q: Does additional cleaning need to take place if somebody has tested positive for Covid-19?
A: If there is a known case of coronavirus then cleaning and disinfection will be necessary; or closing for at least 48 hours. Public Health England has specific guidance on this: COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home
Any objects handled by the person where cleaning is not possible should be quarantined for at least 3 days.