Coronavirus (advice for churches)

First published on: 17th March 2020

LATEST UPDATES: The information below was amended on 24 October 2020

Current guidance from the Church of England is regularly updated here and some specific topics are listed below for convenience:

Re-opening churches

Opening your church
For those churches able to re-open here is national guidance and advice that will help. An additional document here goes into more detail. For those churches that are not yet ready or able to re-open there is guidance on a simple resolution the PCC can pass in order to allow the building to remain closed for longer.
Bishop Martyn issued a message for churches: "As some of our buildings re-open, we are once again reliant on volunteers to fulfil all the requirements around cleaning and other safety measures. Not all churches will be able to do this and so some will re-open sooner than others. This is completely understandable, and no one should feel under pressure to anything which might put others at risk. My sincere hope is that our communities will work together, continuing to focus on caring for one another and praying for one another."
Opening for services

- Public Worship - click here for the Church of England’s advice on the Conduct of Public Worship

- Please see details regarding Holy Communion, specific seasonal services and Occasional offices in the ‘Services’ section below.

Opening for Individual Private Prayer

Click here for guidance

Test and Trace

This guidance was issued by the Church of England on 23 September. The main elements:

- Track and Trace in the paper based form as per previous Church of England Guidance is what should be in place as part of your ‘covid-safe’ processes. The placing of the QR codes on church buildings is part of the mobile app provision that the Government is pursuing as part of the longer term aim, and is strongly recommended (except for church halls where it is mandatory).

- Places of worship are not covered in legislation requiring use of the NHS Test & Trace service (except where they offer certain facilities such as a café, or are open as a tourist destination in which it is mandatory). However, along with other venues where people spend time, churches are strongly encouraged to keep a record of those who have attended to facilitate NHS Test and Trace in the event of an outbreak of coronavirus. Participating in Test & Trace will help to slow the spread of Covid-19. We encourage you to read the CofE guidance notes, as they also provide guidance on the variations such as ‘hospitality coffee shops’ and also data privacy notices.

- Parish buying are offering to supply a service for the QR for those churches who wish to or must use it (eg where they offer certain facilities such as a café, or are open as a tourist destination).

Guidance on wearing face masks

Click here for the latest guidance

Risk Assessments
Before opening your church building you must complete a risk assessment. Find guidance and a template for your risk assessment below:

Risk assessment guidance

Risk assessment template

Volunteer safer recruitment

Guidance from the recent 'Rule of Six' announcement
The Government announced new regulations relating to the ‘Rule of Six’ which came into effect on Monday 14 September 2020. On 17 September 2020 the Church of England issued new guidance relating to those regulations for churches. Click here to download the new guidance and some additional updates as of Friday evening 18 September here.

- The Government document regarding the mandatory Rule of Six is helpful in ensuring that socialising whilst distancing is followed. Area Deans have been emailed a supplementary document (sent 23 September) which can be displayed or referred to as part of each member’s continuing care for one another as we seek to meet with others safely. There are some helpful elements about meeting others safely in this document.

These FAQs from the Minister of Faiths, Community and Local Government on 18 September.

- There is also some guidance for youth groups here.

Guidance in response to the Three Tier System

- Guidance and permitted activities under these rules can be found here.

Outdoor Worship and Churchyards

- For guidance click here

Singing in church

- The latest national guidelines allow for small set choir groups to sing, so long as they socially distance from the congregation and each other, and the congregation doesn’t join in the singing.

- Church of England guidance responding to this can be found here.

PCC meetings and APCMs

Latest Guidance
An Instrument has been issued by the Bishop of Leicester which provides for APCMs to be held this year either exclusively by electronic means or to enable virtual attendance at an APCM held as an in-person meeting.
- There is also a Guidance Note, provided by the Diocesan Registrar, which sets the context for this permission, and gives particular guidance on how to deal with voting. The date by which APCMs have to take place remains 31st October 2020. If, having read the attached information, you have particular questions or concerns, please do direct them as usual to Andy Brockbank (note new email address, the Archdeacons Office or the Diocesan Registrar’s Office as appropriate.

Opening for Services, Seasonal Services and Occasional Offices

Remembrance Events/services
- The Royal British Legion will not be co-ordinating the usual Remembrance services. They are providing an alternative of a broadcast service.
- Permission to hold worship services outdoors is currently noted in the Church of England guidance
- However, various constraints apply depending on whether the service is within the curtilage of the church or whether it is to be held outside of this. Guidance is clarified in those notes.
- However, there is also an element which speaks to our need to consider risks, and in this case the drawing in of ‘people’ in large unpredictable numbers which would contravene the Government guidance. This is amplified by a reference to the local police/councils.
- There is also the realisation that with the ebb and flow of covid, the guidance concerning any gatherings may change, and managing expectations might be helpful. A plan B might be useful, as mentioned in the meeting, such as displaying poppies in the window, prayer liturgy etc.
- There is also advice about Remembrance in the Church of England guidance FAQs here.
- The Church of England have also created a resource hub to help clergy and lay leaders prepare for All Saints' Day, All Souls’ Day and Remembrance in 2020.
- Following the announcement by the Prime Minister that the maximum number attending is to be reduced to 15 from Monday 28 September, the Church of England will be studying detailed documents when they are available and will amend advice to churches accordingly asap.
- Please also see the government’s guidance for safely conducting wedding ceremonies.
- There is a specific exemption that covers funeral services. This allows a maximum of 30 people to attend church premises for a funeral without observing the ‘rule of six’. This is subject to the church carrying out a risk assessment and taking all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus. Until otherwise advised, the Church of England considers the maximum of 30 to include everyone participating in the service.
Further resources:
- Baptisms are possible providing appropriate steps are taken to minimise risk. If the baptism is taking place as part of a regular act of worship the usual requirements for public worship apply (see 'The Rule of six' FAQ section in CofE guidance). From 28 September, standalone life events will be subject to the ‘rule of six’ limits. The Church of England is seeking Government clarification on this and will update their guidance once detailed documentation is published.
Holy Communion
Ordinations and Consecrations

Pastoral Support

Offering Pastoral Support
- Click here for the latest guidance from the Church of England in pastoral support in the community, including care homes.


Talking to a child worried about coronavirus
The NSPCC has created a new webpage with information and advice for parents or carers who are worried a child or young person may be struggling with their mental health or has anxiety about coronavirus. The webpage includes information on: talking about feelings and worries; keeping in touch and balancing screen time; ways to create structure and routine; and helping to give children a sense of control. Read the information and advice: Talking to a child worried about coronavirus (COVID-19).
Domestic Abuse
We know that for those experiencing domestic abuse, self isolating at home presents additional dangers. Women’s Aid have provided some specific safety advice.

Online and Digital Church

Running virtual services and online worship
- Legal regulations around streaming services: Here's the guidance (see Livestreaming topics in the FAQ's 'Prayer and Worship' section) given by the Church of England's national Digital Team.
Everybody Welcome Online
Here’s some really useful analysis and reflection on how churches have been using streaming, social media and other new technologies over the last few weeks. While we’re aware that not all churches have the resources (or broadband coverage!) to do “virtual” church, these are some detailed early observations which many will find useful, and includes suggestions on how to make online church as welcoming and visitor-friendly as possible. A further two documents have now been released, one update building on the original, and one looking to the future.
If your church uses Zoom, please see these updated guidelines and accompanying consent form which include information on obtaining permissions and safeguarding implications (with some particular reference to those under the age of 16) for Zoom meetings and gatherings:

Wellbeing and Mental Health

Wellbeing of clergy and other church leaders/employees
We give thanks for all the pastoral care and support being offered in parishes throughout the diocese to those particularly affected by the pandemic. We also recognise that clergy and church leaders/employees are themselves affected in different ways, so here is a link to some wellbeing resources and materials specifically for clergy and church leaders/employees.
Mental Health Support
Please visit our Wellbeing page that gives details of support available through the diocese.

Everyday Faith at Home

Everyday Faith at Home
Since the start of lockdown we have had to find new ways to live out our Everyday Faith at Home. We've now created a new webpage on which we have gathered some resources and tools you might want to access to aid in your personal discipleship from home. Click here to visit our 'Everyday Faith at Home' page.

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