Coronavirus – Re-opening Places of Worship – Updated 7th November 2020

Advice to IM Churches

*** 6th November Update – National Lockdown ***

At 5pm on Friday 6th November the Government updated COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic to reflect the new lockdown regulations.  The update states that churches MUST NOW CLOSE FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP, but does give advice on broadcasting services, involvement of musicians and singers, and on support groups, funerals and individual prayer among other things.  See our advice page for more details.


Salient Points from Government Guidance

  • There is an exemption from the 3-Tier System rules that covers places of worship making it possible for more than six people to gather for acts of communal worship.  However, it is not a blanket exemption and people must follow all the rules relating to the new 3-Tier System.
  • Communal worship means a service at which the general public can attend, not just an invited group, and normally means an advertised regular act of worship.  However, the Government have advised that a service to mark a ‘significant date in the Faith calendar’ can happen with attendance up to the Covid safe capacity of the building even though it is not a regular weekly or monthly service.  This means that annual celebrations or commemorations or services to mark special dates can be understood to be communal worship.
  • Wearing of face coverings are also required by law, therefore the wearing of face coverings by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers and worshippers, where there may be other people present is mandatory.  However, there are some exemptions to this, including for those leading a service.
  • An advisory maximum of 15 attendees has been set for weddings and and 30 for a funeral.  All other life event services, such as baptisms, are subject to the rule of six if they are private services and not communal worship.  This is all subject to the church carrying out a risk assessment and taking all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of Coronavirus.
  • There is no numerical maximum on other services, but social distancing and public health requirements must be met during these services.
  • The two-metre rule applies for public worship except in situations where closer contact cannot be avoided; if this is the case, extra public health precautions must then be taken.
  • Consideration should be given to keeping numbers below the maximum possible to further minimise risk.
  • People attending a gathering in church must not be part of a group of more than six unless they are from the same household or support bubble.
  • While those at extra risk and the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ should be advised of the risks of attending public worship, a decision to do so is theirs alone.
  • Government guidance includes a request for names of attendees to be recorded and kept for 21 days to assist ‘track and trace’ if required (further details from the government are expected to help churches who wish to do this).
  • Congregational singing and playing of brass or woodwind instruments are not permitted.  Guidance has been issued for small groups of professional and non-professional performers to sing/play in a physically distanced and safe way, but you must follow the recommendations set out by the Government in their Performing Arts guidance
  • Detailed instructions on ‘consumables’ suggest that Sacrament services can be held if specific guidance is followed, including a suspension of using a common cup for wine – if your church uses this practice.
  • Public worship guidance includes not only the church building but surrounding grounds (including car parks and courtyards); meetings in other places should follow other guidance for people meeting in public spaces.
  • Refreshments can only be served at tables if a café is included in the church building.
  • Government advice about use of churches and other church buildings for non-religious activity is available and should be consulted before any other activity is allowed in your buildings.

Detailed Questions & Answers