The Government has published new guidance for the reopening of places of worship, on Monday 29th June 2020. These are applicable from 4th July 2020.
Please follow this link to the full guidance on the government website.
Click Here for a pdf version of this document.
For those making decisions about whether to reopen their church building and gather together, and how to do this safely, please read this guidance in full, making sure to complete a risk assessment using the following guidelines. A risk assessment template from the Church of England can be found here. One from the Methodist church can be found here.
The Baptist Union of Great Britain has produced a comprehensive template in both pdf and Word document format, along with helpful, church-based, guidance, available here Staff/volunteer risk assessments and pre-opening checklists are just some of the other useful tools also available on their site.
Some key points to consider from the Government guidance are:
- Social distancing must be maintained in a place of worship and clear reminders given, as well as clear markings on the floor. This means: “From 4 July, 2 metres or 1 metre with risk mitigation (where 2 metres is not viable) between households are acceptable.”
- Face masks and coverings are advised but not mandatory and need to be additional to other precautions and safety measures, not instead of. Young children should not wear face masks for their own safety.
- Consider how many worshippers will be able to attend in a socially distanced manner, proportional to your building size and pinch points (see ‘restrictions on capacity’) and think about how this can be managed for your congregation. Will everyone be able to attend? Can you also live stream the service for those who can’t attend?
- The government are encouraging services to be as concise as possible to minimise the risk of infection: “It is advised that the ceremonies and services should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time.”
- The guidance on communal or shared items, such as bibles, hymn books or service sheets is that this should be avoided where possible, meaning that worshippers should bring their own if they can, otherwise these items should be quarantined for 48 hours afterwards. If it is possible to make single use items, such as service or song sheets, this would be preferable to using communal books.
- Communion is possible as long as the guidelines are carefully followed, which can be found under the heading ‘Food and drink’,
- Singing is discouraged, even with a face mask, as are playing instruments that are blown into. Instruments such as pianos, organs or guitars are permitted. The government also make the suggestion of using recordings of worship music, but worshippers are discouraged from singing themselves.
- Full immersion baptism is not currently advised, but the sprinkling of water is permitted, in line with the guidance in the section ‘Use of water’.
- Offerings should be made online as much as possible, otherwise a designated person should use gloves to handle the offering.
- Children and young people can meet in their groups but it is important to follow the guidance given by the Department for Education. In these places, soft furnishings and toys that are not easily cleaned should be removed.
- There is clear guidance on toilet use, hygiene and cleaning towards the end of this document. Notably the church should provide hand sanitiser in different parts of the church, including before entering the toilets, on entry to the building itself and at other key points. Hand washing should be encouraged and signs put up on how to do this effectively.
- The government actively encourages churches to consider continuing to live stream or make the service accessible in some way to those who can’t attend in person.
Partnership have been praying for wisdom for church leaders and elders who are thinking about how to move forward at this time. Whether you choose to open or not to open your churches, we pray that you continue to gather (in person or online) and encourage one another in the faith and know God’s blessing in your midst.