Coronavirus guidance for churches

LATEST ADVICE

Updated: Thursday 16 December 2021, 18:25

Message from BLT: Covid-19 Omicron Variant

The increase in cases of the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus is a cause of concern across all aspects of daily life at the current time. 

Bishop’s Leadership Team recognise and acknowledge the anxiety that clergy and parishes are feeling as we approach Christmas – particularly the concern to keep everyone who attends our churches safe.

Bishop’s Leadership Team are truly grateful to parishes and clergy for continuing to rise to the challenges that the pandemic continues to present and for the ongoing commitment and resilience that is being demonstrated.

Senior clergy continue to be ready to offer support and to have individual conversations as required.

The website continues to be the focal point for information for parishes and clergy and specific queries can be channelled via the dedicated email account: pandemic@manchester.anglican.org. The website will be updated, as required, over the Christmas period and the email account will be monitored too.

In order to provide a level of clarity and support for clergy and parishes when making decisions and planning for Christmas services further guidance and advice has been added.

New Section:

  • Christmas Services

The following FAQs have also been updated:

  • Risk Assessments

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

The following FAQs seek to assist parishes and clergies 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 advice provided 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.

 

CHRISTMAS SERVICES

Q:      Is it appropriate for Christmas services to take place?

A:      Acts of worship over Christmas should go ahead as planned at the local level.  However, individual parishes should also consider what steps to take if the situation arises that clergy who are due to lead worship become unwell and are unable to do so.

With this in mind BLT are supportive of PCCs and clergy making alternative provisions, such as Communion by Extension by an authorised person (see separate section for detail).  If Communion by Extension is not possible, the church should be open for a short act of prayer e.g. Morning Prayer on Christmas Day.

Our churches can and should remain open in order that worship can take place, but this must be in a manner that ensures that the building is covid-19 secure.  In exceptional circumstances, for instance if no officers can be found to open the church safely, then cancellation of services might be considered.  The cancellation of such services required by Canon needs the permission of the relevant suffragan bishop or archdeacon, acting on Bishop David’s behalf.  However, Bishop David gives general permission for services to be cancelled on Sunday 26 December

Q:      What is the guidance about Communion by Extension?

A:      Full guidance about Communion by Extension  can be found in this document: Guidelines for Communion by Extension and Home Communion

Communion by Extension must be led by:

  • A deacon, Reader or Church Army officer who holds the Bishop’s licence or permission to officiate.
  • Exceptionally, if none of the above is available, an ALM (usually a Worship Leader) or Churchwarden who in either case is also a Eucharistic Assistant, has been appropriately trained and who is given the Bishop’s specific authorisation to lead such a service.  Such authorisation will not imply the granting of a licence to preach.
  • Other Eucharistic Assistants can assist with the distribution of Communion but cannot lead the service.

The texts to be used for the service can be found here: Public Worship with Communion by Extension

The sacrament is ideally taken from a church celebrating Holy Communion that day (or the night before) or exceptionally Reserved sacrament may be used.

 

DECISION MAKING

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.

 

COMMUNION IN BOTH KINDS

Q:      Does communion in both kinds have to be offered?

A:      The common cup may now be shared.

Careful consideration needs to be given to the question of whether the sacrament should be administered in one kind or in both kinds, given the continued potential for risks to health posed by the common cup. –

Consideration should also be given to if and when the minister(s) and communicants sanitize their hands, and when they remove and replace any face coverings. –

There are three ways currently for the administration of Communion:

1) the communicant can receive the bread alone;

2) the president may dip the bread in the wine before giving to the communicant;

3) the communicant can receive wine from the common cup in the way they did so before the pandemic.

Full advice is available within the document: COVID-19 Opening and managing church buildings in the section entitled: Administration of Holy Communion (pages 7 and 8 of the document).

 

SINGING

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, churches may want to consider face coverings are used by congregations while singing depending upon their local circumstance.

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, we advise additional precautions should be considered.

Precautions to reduce transmission of the virus can include improving ventilation, using a larger space, reducing the number of participants, shortening the duration of activity and wearing face coverings. Singing (and generally meeting) outdoors is a safer way of gathering, and where this is possible it could be a good alternative to meeting indoors.

 

RISK ASSESSMENTS

Q:      Are Risk Assessments necessary for church buildings?

A:      Yes.

The compilation, application and ongoing review of risk assessments has been vital throughout the pandemic: and risk assessments must continue to be the means of guiding activity and making decisions at the local level.

Capacity within the church building must not exceed what is agreed to be safe within a risk assessment, the mandatory requirement to wear face coverings must be adhered to and the guidance contained in the Church of England guidance document should be applied too.

There is no prescribed template. It is possible 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.

The latest version of the risk assessment template, produced by the Church of England can be accessed here: Risk Assessment Template for Opening Church Buildings to the Public.

Q:      Should a risk assessment be carried out ahead of a life event service taking place?

A:      Life event services, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals, can be some of the most important pastoral encounters in a parish and in the life of a family, but also may pose particular challenges as we move to step 4 of the Governments roadmap.

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.

Q:      Should people hiring the church building or the church hall provide a risk assessment?

A:      Yes, this is an important requirement for all events and venue hires and should continue. They may wish to make use of the available template and tips in the Events and Attractions guidance.
www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19/events-and-attractions#risk-1 

It is the activity being performed, rather than the building itself, which needs to be assessed for risk when running events.     

 

SOCIAL EVENTS AND BUILDING HIRE

Q:      Are all activities now permitted in our church buildings and our church halls?

A:      Legal restrictions on activities taking place in church buildings and church halls have been largely removed.

The government’s Events and Attractions guidance applies to churches and should be taken into account by those managing church buildings, as well as anyone hiring or otherwise running events in church buildings.

www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19/events-and-attractions

 

FACE COVERINGS

Q:      Is the wearing of face coverings mandatory in places of worship?

A:      Yes.  Face coverings are currently mandatory on public transport and in a range of indoor venues including places of worship. While there are exemptions this is a legal requirement

Details of exemptions are set out in the following document: Opening and Managing Church Buildings.

Q:      Do children have to wear face coverings?

A:      Anyone aged 11 and over must wear a face covering (unless they are exempt). This includes children and youth groups happening during worship.

 

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. 

While the NHS COVID pass will become mandatory for entry into venues where large crowds gather, this requirement does not apply to our places of worship. Communal Worship, Weddings, Funerals and other ceremonies to mark key life events are  all  exempt.

 

VACCINATIONS

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:      It is not a legal requirement to display or ask people to register for NHS Test and Trace.   

The Church of England strongly encourage that churches register for the NHS test and trace app and continue to encourage all who enter the building to check in.

Where this is not possible, a local system may be used.  

Whilst churches may choose to display the QR code to offer people the chance to check in you do not have to, and you cannot insist on people registering.

Further advice is available in the following document: COVID-19 NHS Test & Trace Data.

 

CLEANING

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.  

Any objects handled by the person where cleaning is not possible should be quarantined for at least three days.

 

PASTORAL VISITING

Q:  Is there any guidance relating to pastoral visits to individual homes?

With the lifting of restrictions, the rules for visiting people in their homes are largely the same as they were before the pandemic, but visitors are strongly advised to take additional precautions particularly where any of the people involved in the visit are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. Following Government guidance this may include considering if the people involved have been fully vaccinated, social distancing, lateral flow testing before visiting, face coverings and making sure there is good ventilation. Holy Communion can be given at home but strict hand hygiene should be observed.

Q:  Is there any specific guidance for undertaking pastoral visits to care homes?

For regular visitors to care homes there is a requirement from the 11 November that they are fully vaccinated and show proof of that vaccination. They will also need to comply with the requirements of the care home on aspects such as PPE, hygiene and social distancing. People do not need to show proof of vaccination or exemption if they are visiting a resident who is dying (that is in their last days of life) or they are providing comfort or support to a resident following the death of a relative or friend. For more details please see the Government’s guidance here.




The Church of England Diocese of Manchester,
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