Coronavirus guidance for churches

LATEST ADVICE

Updated: Monday 19 July 2021, 3.15pm

The following have been updated:

  1. General Statement regarding Step 4 of the Government Roadmap
  2. Message from Bishop’s Leadership Team
  3. FAQ Section – a new suite of FAQs has been added

GENERAL STATEMENT REGARDING STEP 4 OF THE GOVERNMENT ROADMAP

The majority of legal restrictions have been lifted today.

In light of moving to Step 4 of the Government Roadmap the Church of England has published a new guidance document that everyone is strongly encouraged to read:

Opening and managing church buildings in step 4'

COVID 19 Guidance from 19 July 2021 v1.0.pdf (churchofengland.org)

It contains the most up-to-date guidance for parishes and clergy.

MESSAGE FROM BISHOP’S LEADERSHIP TEAM (BLT)

BLT recognise that as restrictions are eased this brings hope but also concerns.  Parishes and clergy are assured of the prayers and the support of BLT at this time of transition, which for many will be worrying.

BLT is grateful to the Church of England for providing very helpful guidance to support parishes and clergy as legal restrictions are lifted.  The content and the spirit of the Church of England guidance is fully endorsed.

Decisions now need to be made on an individual basis, taking into account specific local circumstances.  Senior clergy stand ready to have individual conversations where this might be helpful and supportive.

Archdeacon David Sharples and Alison Moore will continue to provide practical advice and guidance to specific queries via the dedicated email account:  pandemic@manchester.anglican.org

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 Guidance from the 19th July 2021 v1.0.pdf (churchofengland.org)

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.

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.  However, given continued potential risks to health:

  • it remains permissible for the president to be the only person who receives Holy Communion in the form of wine.
  • it is important that no pressure is placed on members of the congregation to receive the sacrament if they feel unable to do so. An individual communicant may choose to receive only in the form of bread even if consecrated wine is being distributed.

SINGING

Q:      Is singing now permitted?

A:      Yes.  There are no legal restrictions in respect to singing or playing musical instruments.

Some activities can 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 – and this risk increases indoors.

The Church of England advises 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.)

RISK ASSESSMENTS

Q:      Are Risk Assessments necessary for church buildings?

A:      Yes.  It is important that the person acting as the ‘venue manager’ carry out a risk assessment. This is part of keeping everyone safe.

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 CofE template is available here

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 it acceptable to ask people to wear face coverings when entering our church buildings?

A:      While it is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering, the government has stated that it “expects and recommends” that people wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed settings to protect themselves and others.

Churches may well decide to continue to ask people to use them and/or to maintain social distancing, especially during busy events.

Although such a request will not be legally enforceable it can be positioned as a way of easing the transition back towards pre-pandemic ways of worshipping whilst showing consideration for others.  In some individual situations it might be that some measures are felt to be important for safety within a church building, or it might be that additional measures will help people to feel more secure in returning to worship and other uses of the building.

TEST AND TRACE

Q:      Is it still necessary to ask people to register for Test and Trace?

A:      It is no longer a legal requirement 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.

The government is asking that venues do continue to ask people to register for venue check in (the QR code) as it will continue to form one of the main ways of them identifying people who may have been exposed to coronavirus.

COVID 19 NHS Test and Trace v5.pdf (churchofengland.org)

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.




The Church of England Diocese of Manchester,
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Manchester M3 2GH

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