Diocese of Manchester

Coronavirus support

This page has the latest information and guidance for churches concerning the Coronavirus. 

The Diocesan Coronavirus Response Group is responsible for responding to the evolving situation, getting information out to our parishes and keeping this page updated. 

Updated 10:00 on 9 July 2020


Since 30 June 2020 The Church of England published new advice relating to:

  • The conduct of public worship added following the publication of Government guidance
  • An updated risk assessment
  • Opening church buildings to the public
  • Weddings
  • Funerals
  • Baptisms
  • Confirmations
  • Churchyards

To assist parishes and clergy the FAQ section of this website has been reviewed and updated. Each FAQ provides the most current advice and links to relevant documents and materials.

On 7 July 2020 Bishop David issued revised diocesan advice regarding:

  • Clergy, Lay Ministers and Volunteers in the Clinically Vulnerable Group
  • Use of Church Premises for Community Purposes

On 8 July 2020

  • Our FAQ relating to public worship has been amended to include a link to the updated Church of England document “Covid-19 Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship”
  • A template 'This Church is Open for Public Worship' is available for churches who may wish to use it
Diocesan prayer in time of crisis

Statement given by the Bishops of Bolton and Middleton at the Webinar for Churchwardens and Clergy – 2 July 2020

As you will have heard by now, the Government has announced that from 4 July we will be permitted to re-open our churches for public worship - something we have longed and prayed for. We know that many of you will be really excited about this, eager to get going and ready with your detailed plans to open for worship this Sunday. However, we are also aware that some of you will be feeling quite apprehensive and concerned that your parishes are not yet or indeed far from ready.

Worship is fundamental to the life of the church, it renews our fellowship with God and with one another and strengthens us for our life as Christians. It is a precious gift, our duty and our joy to be able to worship God. Online worship has been wonderful and will continue to be provided no doubt; but it is now time for us to plan together to offer worship in our buildings

This is about making our buildings ‘Covid-19 Secure’ (this is the official terminology the government are using) and for some parishes this will be more difficult than others because of the nature of the building and/or the number of people available to make all the necessary preparations. We are grateful to Archdeacon David, Alison Moore and the team who have been going through the detail of exactly what needs to be in place to open our buildings safely for public worship – so that you have the information, advice, guidance and support available. You are not alone. For now we note that

1. Initially we only need to open one church building for public worship in each benefice.

2. Remember that worship will look, sound and feel different. It will probably be fairly short, minimal, with social distancing, no singing etc.

3. The requirements for Holy Communion are quite detailed and it may be that not every service will be Eucharistic

4. The important thing is to plan well, start small and build up to a place where everyone feels confident that we can worship together safely.

Bishop David is happy to extend the period of preparation for a short period (probably one measured in weeks, rather than in days or months) until you are satisfied that it is safe and practical to re-open your building.

We are conscious that clergy, wardens and other lay people all have different health needs that impact your plans and availability; there may be others in the community who might help out, for example with cleaning the church or doing some duties if we ask them. We have also asked clergy chapters to undertake a quick audit of available clergy and Readers who can lead worship and may need to help out in other benefices.

Many have been running on adrenaline for 3 months and are probably feeling exhausted; and we are very mindful that you will be in real need of rest and recuperation. It is vital therefore that everyone considers their health and well-being and that they plan for and take much-needed and well-deserved breaks.

But we all need to start on the journey back into church and our webinar is designed to help you make those first steps and give you the opportunity to raise questions. In the meantime, we will continue to support you and Bishop David’s Leadership team will be praying with you and offering our practical support in the days to come.

Pastoral Support during the Coronavirus Emergency

A new page offers practical advice and online resources to help you take care of yourself as you care for others during the pandemic

Pastoral Support page

Frequently Asked Questions

The national church has a comprehensive list of FAQs which is constantly being updated. We are following national guidance and recommend that you check the Church of England FAQ section daily.
In light of the government announcement that worship can recommence from 4 July 2020 and the provision of guidance from the Church of England the FAQs have all been reviewed and updated on 1 July 2020 to reflect the current position.

Can public worship take place in our churches? 

(updated 8 July)

The government has advised that our church buildings can be opened for public worship from 4 July 4 as long as this can be done safely.

The Church of England have provided very detailed information and advice to support parishes as public worship recommences: 

Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship (This document was updated on 6 July 2020)

The key points are:

  • An advisory ‘cap’ of 30 has been set for weddings and other ‘stand-alone’ services such as baptism and confirmation if not conducted during ‘routine communal worship’.
  • There is no numerical ‘cap’ on other services, but social distancing and Public Health requirements must be met.
  • The two-metre ‘rule’ applies for public worship except in situations where closer contact cannot be avoided; extra Public Health precautions must then be taken.
  • Consideration should be given to keeping numbers below the maximum possible to further minimise risk.
  • Wearing of face-coverings is voluntary.
  • 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).
  • Singing, chanting and playing of brass or woodwind instruments are not recommended, but a further update will follow soon.
  • Detailed instructions on ‘consumables’ suggest that services of Holy Communion can be held if specific guidance is followed, including the continued suspension of the Common Cup (see the guidance document on Holy Communion).

Public worship guidance includes surrounding grounds (including churchyards, car parks and courtyards); meetings in other places should follow other guidance for people meeting in public spaces.

Bishop’s Leadership Team wish emphasise the following:

  • initially we only need to open one church building for public worship in each benefice.
  • worship will look, sound and feel different.
  • the requirements for Holy Communion are quite detailed and it may be that not every service will be Eucharistic
  • it is important to plan well, start small and build up to a place where everyone feels confident that we can worship together safely.

The Church of England have introduced a blog which shares a range of options for churches to share services and events online as doors are reopened for prayer, worship and life events.

It can be read here: Supporting congregations and people exploring faith online as churches begin to reopen

Is it possible for worship to take place in the churchyard?

(New FAQ – 3 July 2020)

Yes, if the churchyard or land around your church is owned or managed by you (for example by the PCC).

Under government guidance a place of worship refers to a building used for regular religious ceremonies, communal worship or similar gatherings by religious organisations and includes the use of surrounding grounds(This includes churchyards, car parks and courtyards).

Given this, if you are using a churchyard you own or manage you can assess the capacity limits in the same way as you would for the inside of the building taking into account current social distancing rules, and having completed a risk assessment.Social distancing and hygiene measures must still be maintained.

This guidance does not cover public parks, private homes, cultural sites or other open spaces, such as woodlands which may be used for religious purposes. If people do want to engage in worship in these spaces, then the guidance relevant to that place should be adhered to.

The full Church of England guidance can be accessed via this link: Churchyards

Is it necessary to complete a risk assessment ahead of opening the church building?

(updated 1 July)

The government guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic requires a COVID-19 risk assessment to be carried out for every building and site open to the public.

The Church of England have produced a risk assessment template (which was updated on 1 July 2020) for use by churches.

This is a very helpful document that covers everything that needs to be considered – it is very comprehensive.

What do we need to do legally if we are not opening for public worship after 4 July 2020? 

(updated 1 July 2020)

Ensuring our buildings are Covid-19 Secure is a requirement for public worship to take place.

It is acknowledged for some parishes this will be more difficult than others because of the nature of the building and/or the number of people available to make all the necessary preparations.

SHORT TERM - If it is likely to be only a matter of a few weeks before at least one church in a benefice may be able to hold the normally required public services then that matter can be dealt with by the minister and each of the PCCs (without the need to consult the bishop).The minister and the PCCs should set out the arrangements in a formal resolution

LONGER TERM - If it will not be possible for at least one church in a benefice to hold the normally required public services for an extended period of time, the minister and PCC of each parish in the benefice should make a joint request to the Bishop for dispensation.

Bishop David will be content to extend the period of preparation for a short period (probably one measured in weeks, rather than in days or months) until it is safe and practical to re-open a building.

The Church of England have developed a full advice document that includes suggested forms of words to assist: Restarting public worship: some legal questions and answers

Praying and live streaming from church buildings continue after 4 July 2020?

(updated 1 July 2020)

While public worship in some churches will recommence from 4 July 2020 many churches will continue to stream prayers and services.

Whether or not the church is also being used for public worship please read the Church of England Guidance on Keeping Church Buildings Clean in order to ensure virus transmission risks are minimised

Can other denominations use our churches for worship from 4 July 2020?

(updated 1 July 2020)

Other denominations who use Church of England buildings to meet for worship are permitted to do so from 4 July 2020.

Other groups must undertake to conduct their own risk assessment and observe physical distancing and Public Health guidance.

What is the diocesan view about those who are in the clinically vulnerable group engaging in ministry and volunteering? 

(New FAQ – 7 July 2020)

It has been the advice of Manchester Diocese that those who are fall into the Clinically Vulnerable Category (which includes those who are over 70) should not engage in ministry that involves direct public contact. This has been consistent with the advice given by other dioceses across the Church of England.

In the light of new, recently revised guidance from the Church of England this advice has been revisited and is now updated.

The national guidance indicates that those in the Clinically Vulnerable Group may now undertake church work or voluntary activity which involves direct contact, providing they observe Government and Church of England Guidance on social distancing etc.

The revised diocesan policy is that:

  • those in the Clinically Vulnerable Group may now officiate at funerals, weddings and public worship.
  • those who are in the Clinically Vulnerable Group must make their own decision about whether to officiate at services in a church building, churchyard or crematorium. In reaching this decision they must weigh the personal risks and follow both Government and Church of England guidance.
  • if any individual who is in the Clinically Vulnerable Group who are beneficed or licenced to a particular responsibility decide that for their own personal protection they cannot officiate at services they must not feel under any pressure. The health and well-being of all clergy is an absolute priority.
  • Individuals will simply need to work with their PCC and Area Dean to ensure that services can be covered.
  • Volunteers and employees who are in the Clinically Vulnerable Group may now undertake activities within their church, subject to the agreement of the PCC/Incumbent.
  • The parish risk assessment will need to take account of this and parishes will need to check with their insurers.

Will parishes be covered by EIG if churches are opened for Worship?

(updated 9 July)

The following advice has been received from the EIG Church Insurance Consultant on Wednesday 8 July 2020.

We would expect a church to establish effective protocols to implement all relevant guidance and procedures developed by the Government and the Church of England for the prevention of the transmission of Covid-19. The Public and Employers Liability insurance provided by the Ecclesiastical church policies would protect the interests of the Vicar, Churchwardens & PCC were they to be found legally liable for bodily injury, which would include contracting COVID-19, subject to the relevant policy terms and conditions.

Parishes are reminded that they need to bear in mind that responsibility is devolved to PCCs.

Any parishes covered by other insurance providers will need to contact their provider directly to confirm the position.

Holy communion advice

(updated 2 July 2020)

The Church of England Guidance for the safe celebration of Holy Communion once services of worship recommence has now been published: Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion

The advice:

  • seeks to enable Holy Communion to be celebrated in a safe and appropriate way
  • includes practical steps in the administration of Holy Communion
  • offers guidance on the practice of Holy Communion provided by members of the Liturgical Commission and the Faith & Order Commission which relates both to public worship and to live-streaming 

Funeral Advice 

(updated 2 July 2020)

The government have advised that from 4 July 2020 Funerals should have no more than 30 people in attendance, and physical distancing should be strictly adhered to.

The Church of England guidance in relation to funerals is available: Advice for Conducting Funerals

The aim of this advice is to support clergy and others who take funerals. Every parish and each church building is different and there can be no single solution.

Parishes and clergy will need to assess how, and in some cases whether, they are able to conduct funerals safely in the light of the advice below. This advice follows government guidance which may change and, if so, will be updated accordingly.

Burial of ashes is permitted. If a service does go forward, similar advice will apply with regard to social distancing and hygiene; and managing the numbers of mourners

Wedding Advice 

(updated 2 July 2020)

From 4 July, the Government has allowed for weddings in places of worship, providing certain public health criteria are met including an advised maximum number of 30 people in attendance.(This does not include staff or volunteers employed by the church such as vergers or churchwardens).

The Church of England have now published a detailed advice document that is available: Advice for clergy conducting weddings

Applications for Common Licences

(updated 2 July 2020)

Due to our churches having been closed for public worship since mid-March, marriage services following banns will not be available for any couples until at least the end of July. A common licence will generally be the appropriate alternative and applications for the same must be submitted to the Registry.

Although, please be aware that the Registry is only able to consider applications for July weddings at this time.

When making an application for a common licence, the Registry will need the completed standard forms and letter (to be sent electronically) together with the following additional information:

  • Confirmation as to approximately when the original booking for the wedding was made and the date which was set for the service at that time;
  • Confirmation of whether a banns fee has previously been paid to the parish and, if so, the amount;
  • Details of whether it was possible to call banns at all (if not, the parish will need to refund any banns fee to the couple);
  • Details of any strong pastoral reasons to support why the couple wish to marry quickly and/or are not able to utilise the usual preliminary of banns; and
  • Written confirmation from the Incumbent, officiating minister or PCC secretary (as appropriate) that a risk assessment has been undertaken and decision taken by the PCC to open the church for marriage services.

The Registry will then contact the couples concerned directly to arrange an appointment at Church House and will advise upon the payment of the fee. Appointment times will take account of our social distancing policies, with priority being allocated according to the proposed date of the service.

Download: Common Licence Application Pack

Before making any arrangement to meet with any couple applying for a common licence, the Registry will require written confirmation from the Incumbent, officiating minister or PCC secretary (as appropriate) that a risk assessment has been undertaken and decision taken by the PCC to open the church for marriage services.

Further specific guidance provided by the Registry can be accesed via this link and must be read and actioned.

Specific questions that relate to banns or wedding licences should be referred to Jane Monks or Donna Myers.The contact details for the Registry (which is open Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.15pm) are as follows:

Jane Monks (Registrar) jm@mandioreg.co.uk / 0161 839 0092

Donna Myers (Deputy Registrar) dm@mandioreg.co.uk / 07395 322707

Baptism Advice 

(Updated 2 July 2020)

From 4 July 2020 baptisms can go ahead providing appropriate steps are taken to minimise risk.

The Church of England guidance on baptisms provides detailed information and advice which is intended to assist clergy as they think through the best way of celebrating baptism: Advice for Clergy conducting Baptisms

A baptism should have no more than 30 people present, unless it takes place during ‘routine communal worship’ (e.g. a Sunday morning service).

Confirmation Advice

(New FAQ - 2 July 2020)

Confirmations are permitted to take place from 4 July 2020.

The Church of England have issued advice that is intended to assist clergy in preparing for a confirmation service, which may include baptism and/or other rites of initiation: Advice for the conduct of Confirmation services

Government guidance has limited the numbers at ‘life cycle events’ (such as confirmation) up to 30 people, where they are held outside of regular worship.

If the confirmation is held within a regular act of worship then the physical restrictions of the building need to be assessed for how many it can hold safely with physical distancing

Do we need permission to make adaptations for social distancing or hygiene measures in our church buildings?

Permission may be required, depending on what is needed to be installed, moved or removed.

The Church of England has issued specific advice on gaining permission for temporary changes Download here.

In this diocese, the Chancellor has advised that:

[1] Free-standing hand sanitisers may be placed on a table or other object in the porch or near the entrance to a Church without the need for a Faculty.

[2] Requests for interim Faculties for wall-mounted hand sanitisers are discouraged and are unlikely to be granted save in exceptional circumstances. Applications will be determined by the Chancellor on their individual merits. If he is persuaded that it is necessary for such to be installed, an interim Faculty will be granted for a limited period of no more than 12 months on condition that any fixings are drilled through mortar joints in any wall, if appropriate, and after such hand sanitisers are removed, the wall shall be made good within 28 days.

[3] Temporary signage and cordoning does not require a Faculty.

[4] Lists A and B continue to apply.

For any queries, parishes are advised to contact their Archdeacon or email dac@manchester.anglican.org

How can pastoral support be provided within the community?

One of the church’s most important areas of ministry is pastoral care. The usual ways of undertaking this have been very significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst innovative ways are being found to keep in touch and offer care, the usual route of face to face visiting has not been possible in most situations. This has been challenging and distressing for very many clergy and lay ministers as well as for those who receive such care.

The Church of England has now produced specific guidance giving Advice on pastoral support in the community, including care homes.

Is it possible for nurseries to operate in church buildings and other church-owned property?

  • The latest Church of England advice is that, as of 1 June, places of worship may open for early years' childcare provided by a person registered on the Early Years Register under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006. (Early Years provision in church halls or other buildings not designated places of worship is also permitted, subject to the same rules as other school and nursery settings.)
  • Places of Worship must continue to meet all existing health and safety obligations with regard to ensuring that their premises are safe for providers to hire and to operate from. Once Early Year providers reopen and are operating from premises in Community Settings and Places of Worship, it is for the early year’s provider to ensure that they are following government guidance on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings, as well as all existing requirements set out in the statutory framework for the EYFS.
  • This advice is very specific and only applies to the provision of nursery facilities – it does not apply to other groups/activities. For example: mother/toddler groups, playgroups are still not permitted to meet.

Is it permissible for community activities to take place in church buildings and other church-owned property?

(Updated 7 July 2020)

The use of church premises for essential community work has always been permissible during lockdown.

The Government have confirmed that the premises of a place of worship can be used by other user groups, where those activities are permitted by law to take place.

With this in mind the diocese now advises: 

  • Individual PCCs can determine if their premises can be used by other user groups, to undertake activities that are permitted by law. Activities and businesses that cannot yet operate are listed in this guidance

This information is for those managing multi-use community facilities. It signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these spaces, in line with the government’s roadmap to ease the existing measures to tackle COVID-19.

Particular attention is drawn to the following sections of the guidance:

  • Section 2 Core principles for safely reopening community facilities
  • Section 3a: Early years and youth provision
  • Section 3b: Voluntary sector and other service provision
  • Section 3c: Recreation, leisure and social gatherings
  • Section 3d: Meetings and civic functions 

When schools re-open can church buildings be used by schools as a place of worship or gathering?

(Updated 1 July 2020)

Yes, Government guidance does not prohibit school groups from coming into church, providing any use is in line with Government guidance for safe operation of schools and places of worship.

Can members of clergy and foundation school governors enter a school building?

You should contact your Head teacher about access arrangements and follow the school guidance. More information about school opening can be found on the Government website.

Is it possible to undertake construction work at churches?

Yes. It is possible to carry out construction work. The guidance provided by the Church of England Opening church buildings for works to the building and interior must be followed and the Risk assessment template for contractors and construction workers completed.

Has the faculty jurisdiction been suspended?

No, faculty jurisdiction has not been temporarily suspended.

If the works concerned required faculty or List B approval at the beginning of this month, this is still needed and must not proceed without the necessary approval being in place.

Where a need to undertake urgent repairs arises, please contact your Archdeacon in the first instance. If an interim faculty approval is necessary, the Archdeacon will contact the Registry and permission will be sought from the Chancellor. Please be aware that the Chancellor has already indicated that he will need to be persuaded that an interim faculty is the only option open to the parish concerned.

Any questions or queries can be submitted to DAC@manchester.anglican.org

Specific advice about the display of public notices for faculty applications was issued on 1 April 2020.

Any questions or queries about this can be submitted to dm@mandioreg.co.uk

What should we do about our APCM?

Parishes which have NOT yet held their APCM

  • For those parishes which have not yet held their meeting of parishioners to elect churchwardens and APCMs to elect PCC members and deanery synod reps the deadline has been extended from 31 May 2020 to 31 October 2020
  • The term of office for churchwardens who were chosen in 2019 will be extended until 31 January 2021
  • The term of office of serving lay members of deanery synods is extended until 30 November

Parishes which HAVE held their APCM

  • If parishes have already held their meeting of parishioners and APCMs the churchwardens chosen in 2019 i.e. last year will remain in office until the new wardens are admitted to office which could be as late as January 2021
  • Similarly, deanery synod reps elected in 2017 (the beginning of their 3-year term of office) will continue in office until 30th November 2020 and newly elected members will take up their office on 1 December 2020.
  • Newly elected members of the PCC will have already have taken up their office at the conclusion of the 2020 APCM

A direct mailing has been issued (on 20 March 2020) to Area Deans, Lay Chairs, Deanery Synod Secretaries, Incumbents, Churchwardens and PCC Secretaries. Any queries should be directed to governance@manchester.anglican.org

Can parishes continue to hold PCC meetings? 

(Updated 1 July 2020)

The Government continue to recommend that where meetings can take place digitally without the need for face-to-face contact, they should continue to do so.

Parochial church councils can, if they wish, meet using virtual means such as Skype or Zoom which enable the members to see and hear each other. (Zoom and other platforms also allow people to participate using a conventional landline or basic mobile phone, using the dial in facility. You don’t have to have a webcam and microphone, nor a smart phone.)

However, care must be taken so that members of a PCC who are unable to participate in a meeting in that way are not excluded from the PCC’s deliberations and decision making. The Chair should take steps to ensure that they are able to participate so far as possible, including where necessary by means of the procedure for conducting business by correspondence set out in rule M29 of the Church Representation Rules.

It is recommended that following a virtual meeting, decisions such as the authorising of expenditure, entering into contracts or those that require a formal resolution of the PCC are put in written form and circulated for formal approval under the correspondence procedure in rule M29, which under Rule 76 can be conducted by email.

Specific advice about holding PCC meetings is available on the CofE website.

How can parishes be helped to give financially during this time?

There are a wide range of options available and there is diocesan officer help and support to assist. Parishes are encouraged, in the first instance, to contact Paul.Bailey@manchester.anglican.org


(Updated 1 July)

Coronavirus COVID-19 may live on paper and cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, so any paper delivery represents a transmission risk.

For this reason, parishes are encouraged to look at digital communication, and telephone calls to keep in touch.

We are constantly updating our Frequently Asked Questions on this page and signposting to advice from the national Church. If you have a question not answered in either of these places, you can contact the Diocesan Coronavirus Response Group at pandemic@manchester.anglican.org


A prayer from an Assistant Head Teacher in Burnage

Dear Lord, at this time we pray for school leaders that you will give them peace and wisdom to make the right decisions. Help them to manage the demands of the government, with the needs of the children, the needs and wants of parents and the desires of staff. Help all who work in schools to stay safe as they currently care for the children of key workers and vulnerable children and work towards the next steps of reopening.

We pray for peace for all those anxious about the reopening of schools potentially from 1st June and the risks that carries with it. We pray that the right decisions will be made. We ask for good discussions to take place between the government and the teaching unions and that there will be positive outcomes from these.

We give thanks that some families have been able to spend quality time together during lockdown. We also pray for those families who have found lockdown challenging; for some because they are struggling to meet the needs of their children; for others who are balancing trying to work from home whilst also home educating their children; while others are facing financially difficulty or suffering from ill health.

We give thanks for the many different agencies that have supported schools as they continue to meet the wide ranging needs of their communities and we pray that the new partnerships formed will go from strength to strength.

Overall we pray, Lord, that you will protect the children in our schools and keep them well in body and in mind and we pray that we will overcome this virus so that children can return to school safely. Lord in your mercy; Hear our prayer.

A prayer from a school governor

“They just talk and talk”. Lord, this is what teachers have found when children have recently joined the provision for key workers having been at home for weeks.

Father of us all, our children are suffering. Adults in their homes may be too busy to talk to them. They miss their friends and they miss just talking. They are under-stimulated.

Lord, bring healing to body, mind and soul of our children especially as they start to return to school and give staff great skill in supporting and helping these children as they rediscover relationships outside the home and talk and talk.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

A prayer for those working from home

Father of creation, the structure and the shape of our days are so different.

There are so many distractions at home and there is a huge temptation to spend more time working than we did before lockdown.

Help us to use our time wisely, to invest in the relationships most important to us and to take proper breaks.

May we rediscover a new shape to our days that is centred and guided by your Spirit.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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