We want to keep you up-to-date with information and updates about Coronavirus (COVID-19) so that you can take appropriate action within your churches.
For the latest government and NHS advice you can use the following links:
You should also note the Coronavirus Bill includes information that may be helpful about funeral services. Schedule 27 of the Bill relates to the management of deaths and sets out the powers available to local government to take control of local death management systems where essential for the protection of public health and the dignity of the deceased. Throughout, the government will ensure that local authorities and other public bodies have due regard to people’s religion or belief, and has sought to make this explicit through an amendment to the face of the Bill. Only as a last resort would other more stringent measures be considered.
Coronavirus Update Tuesday 5th January 2021
Further Lockdown Announced
Yesterday the government announced a further lockdown to start with immediate effect and the latest Government guidance on the new lockdown is available here.
Within this guidance, the detail on public worship is as follows: “You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times. You should follow the national guidance on the safe use of places of worship.”
The “national guidance on the safe use of places of worship” was last updated in December. It is available here, and you are advised to consult it regularly in case it is further updated.
Funeral and wedding guidance is little changed from the tier 3 or 4 guidance previously in force. In particular weddings (with a maximum of 6 people including the couple, plus “anyone working”) should only take place in the most exceptional circumstances. For details see the government guidance.
Some further details may also be found here.
The key principles for all churches in the denomination should be: 1) Local decisions within the law for local situations; and 2) safety and assurance first.
We understand that for some the constant need to make local decisions has been stressful and difficult. But we believe that local leaders understand their own situations best, and for as long as Government guidance remains as it is, it is down to the considered decisions of your church leaders as to whether public worship should continue in your church building or buildings at this time.
However, if we are indeed to put safety and assurance first, we should be mindful of two things:
- Firstly, the “big picture” as presented in the very first words of the latest Government guidance: “You must stay at home. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”
- Secondly, to highlight some of the words quoted above in the section on public worship: “You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times.”
If a local church decides to open its doors for public worship, then two things must be in place: 1) a fully thought-through, written risk assessment that recognises the need for strict social distancing in the light of the new (and highly-transmissible) variant of the virus; and 2) the most rigorous insistence to your people that they do not mingle with one another across household groups, whether before or after the service, whether in the church building or outside.
Coronavirus Update Thursday 31st December 2020
You may have seen the announcement yesterday from the Health Secretary about changes to the tier system for most areas of the country. A large percentage of England is now in Tier 4 with almost the rest of the country in Tier 3. However, whichever tier you are in, public worship remains legally possible.
Tier 4 is new to most of us, but the Government guidance on this tier may be found here: Tier 4 – Stay at Home. The Government guidance on meeting for worship in tier 4 is here: Tier 4 – Stay at Home (Places of Worship).
In Tier 4 weddings are strongly discouraged except in genuine emergency, and in any case are limited to a maximum of six people, including the couple but not including “anyone working” (e.g. the minister, organist, etc.). The number attending a funeral remains restricted to a maximum of 30. Again, details are here: Tier 4 – Stay at Home (Weddings & Funerals – Religious Services).
The Tier 3 restrictions remain as they were: Tier 3 – Very High Alert.
An increasing number of churches have chosen to return to online-only meeting in the light of the latest sombre information about the spread of the virus and the strain on the NHS. Others will have decided to continue to meet for worship in person. This remains possible in all tiers provided your risk assessments and careful precautions are in place.
As always, the decision as to whether or not to meet in person is for the local church to make, provided they remain within the law.
However, you will all be aware of the increasing pressures on the NHS and of the increasing numbers of cases, hospital admissions, and sadly deaths. So wherever you are, if you decide to continue with public worship it is even more important to be careful. In you are advised to encourage your people very strongly not to mingle before and after the service so as to minimise any risk.