Coronavirus guidance for churches

LATEST ADVICE

Updated: Monday 29 November 2021, 09.20pm

Update in relation to the Omicron Coronavirus Variant

On Saturday 27 November 2021 the Prime Minister made a statement about the emergence of the Omicron Coronavirus variant and outlined steps that are being put in place that seek to reduce the risk of the transmission of the virus.

This includes specific restrictions in relation to overseas travel and the re-introduction of mandatory wearing of face coverings in retail settings (shops) and on public transport.

The emergence of a new variant is a cause for concern and parishes and clergy should remain diligent with the measures that have been put in place to minimise the risk of transmission.

The Opening and managing church buildings in step 4 document produced by the Church of England provides comprehensive advice.

Parishes and clergy are strongly encouraged to read this very helpful and comprehensive document.

BLT are grateful to the Church of England for providing very helpful guidance to support parishes and clergy as legal restrictions are lifted. The content and the spirit of the Church of England guidance is fully endorsed.

Decisions should continue to be made on an individual basis, taking into account specific local circumstances. Senior clergy continue to  stand ready to have individual conversations where this might be helpful and supportive 

Alison Moore is available to provide practical advice and guidance to specific queries via the dedicated email account: pandemic@manchester.anglican.org

Any Government and Church of England guidance updates that are relevant to parishes and clergy will be shared via this website and the FAQs will be updated accordingly too.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)

The following FAQs seek to assist parishes and clergies by highlighting particular advice relating to a number of specific matters that are known to be of particular concern across our diocese.  The responses are informed by the advice provided by the Church of England in the following document:

COVID 19 Guidance from the 19th July 2021 v1.0.pdf (churchofengland.org)

The FAQ section is not exhaustive.  Clergy and parishes are encouraged to refer to the guidance document for more detailed advice on a wider range of topics.

 

DECISION MAKING

Q:      Who makes the decision on what happens in church settings and at events held in church buildings?

A:      The responsibility for making decisions about how to proceed lies with the incumbent.  

This applies to acts of worship, to events run by the PCC or church community, and to decisions on whether to hire out spaces or allow other events to proceed. Bishop’s Leadership Team encourages incumbents to reach out for support from, and work in collaboration with, their PCCs – using the content of risk assessments when making decisions for individual contexts. Parishes in vacancy are encouraged to contact their Area Dean for advice and support.

 

COMMUNION IN BOTH KINDS

Q:      Does communion in both kinds have to be offered?

A:      The common cup may now be shared.

Careful consideration needs to be given to the question of whether the sacrament should be administered in one kind or in both kinds, given the continued potential for risks to health posed by the common cup. –

Consideration should also be given to if and when the minister(s) and communicants sanitize their hands, and when they remove and replace any face coverings. –

There are three ways currently for the administration of Communion:

1) the communicant can receive the bread alone;

2) the president may dip the bread in the wine before giving to the communicant;

3) the communicant can receive wine from the common cup in the way they did so before the pandemic.

Full advice is available within the document: COVID-19 Opening and managing church buildings in the section entitled: Administration of Holy Communion (pages 7 and 8 of the document).

 

SINGING

Q:      Is singing now permitted?

A:      Yes.  There are no legal restrictions in respect to singing or playing musical instruments.

Some activities can increase the risk of catching or passing on coronavirus. This happens where people are doing activities which generate more particles as they breathe heavily, such as singing or raising their voices – and this risk increases indoors.

The Church of England advises additional precautions should be considered. (Precautions to reduce transmission of the virus can include improving ventilation, using a larger space, reducing the number of participants, shortening the duration of activity and wearing face coverings.)

 

RISK ASSESSMENTS

Q:      Are Risk Assessments necessary for church buildings?

A:      Yes.  It is important that the person acting as the ‘venue manager’ carry out a risk assessment. This is part of keeping everyone safe.

There is no prescribed template.  It is possible to use the template and guidance provided in the government’s Events and Attractions guidance, or you can use the Church of England’s own template, whichever works best for your context.

You can also create your own assessment or re-use a previous template so long as you ensure the assessment is up to date and regularly reviewed.The latest version of the CofE template is available here

Q:      Should a risk assessment be carried out ahead of a life event service taking place?

A:      Life event services, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals, can be some of the most important pastoral encounters in a parish and in the life of a family, but also may pose particular challenges as we move to step 4 of the Governments roadmap.

A risk assessment for the service may help to identify what additional measures would be most helpful and provide a clear rationale for decisions taken.

Q:      Should people hiring the church building or the church hall provide a risk assessment?

A:      Yes, this is an important requirement for all events and venue hires and should continue. They may wish to make use of the available template and tips in the Events and Attractions guidance.
www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19/events-and-attractions#risk-1 

It is the activity being performed, rather than the building itself, which needs to be assessed for risk when running events.     

 

SOCIAL EVENTS AND BUILDING HIRE

Q:      Are all activities now permitted in our church buildings and our church halls?

A:      Legal restrictions on activities taking place in church buildings and church halls have been largely removed.

The government’s Events and Attractions guidance applies to churches and should be taken into account by those managing church buildings, as well as anyone hiring or otherwise running events in church buildings.

www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19/events-and-attractions

 

FACE COVERINGS

Q:      Is it acceptable to ask people to wear face coverings when entering our church buildings?

A:      While it is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering in a place of worship , the government has stated that it “expects and recommends” that people wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed settings to protect themselves and others.

Churches may well decide to continue to ask people to use them and/or to maintain social distancing, especially during busy events.

Although such a request will not be legally enforceable it can be positioned as a way of easing the transition back towards pre-pandemic ways of worshipping whilst showing consideration for others.  In some individual situations it might be that some measures are felt to be important for safety within a church building, or it might be that additional measures will help people to feel more secure in returning to worship and other uses of the building.

 

TEST AND TRACE

Q:      Is it still necessary to ask people to register for Test and Trace?

A:      It is no longer a legal requirement to display or ask people to register for NHS Test and Trace.

You may still choose to display the QR code to offer people the chance to check in but you do not have to, and you cannot insist on people registering.

The government is asking that venues do continue to ask people to register for venue check in (the QR code) as it will continue to form one of the main ways of them identifying people who may have been exposed to coronavirus.

COVID 19 NHS Test and Trace v5.pdf (churchofengland.org)

 

CLEANING

Q:      What is the current guidance about cleaning?

A:      Government guidance continues to remind us that increased frequency of cleaning of general room surfaces reduces the presence of the virus and the risk of contact transmission.

However unless notified specifically by NHS Test and Trace, there is no need to quarantine a building or individual items between uses/opening periods, so long as some form of cleaning of touchable surfaces is able to take place.

Q:      Does additional cleaning need to take place if somebody has tested positive for Covid-19?

A:      If there is a known case of coronavirus then cleaning and disinfection will be necessary; or closing for at least 48 hours. Public Health England has specific guidance on this.  

Any objects handled by the person where cleaning is not possible should be quarantined for at least three days.

 

PASTORAL VISITING

Q:  Is there any guidance relating to pastoral visits to individual homes?

With the lifting of restrictions, the rules for visiting people in their homes are largely the same as they were before the pandemic, but visitors are strongly advised to take additional precautions particularly where any of the people involved in the visit are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable. Following Government guidance this may include considering if the people involved have been fully vaccinated, social distancing, lateral flow testing before visiting, face coverings and making sure there is good ventilation. Holy Communion can be given at home but strict hand hygiene should be observed.

Q:  Is there any specific guidance for undertaking pastoral visits to care homes?

For regular visitors to care homes there is a requirement from the 11 November that they are fully vaccinated and show proof of that vaccination. They will also need to comply with the requirements of the care home on aspects such as PPE, hygiene and social distancing. People do not need to show proof of vaccination or exemption if they are visiting a resident who is dying (that is in their last days of life) or they are providing comfort or support to a resident following the death of a relative or friend. For more details please see the Government’s guidance here.




The Church of England Diocese of Manchester,
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Manchester M3 2GH

Manchester DBF Company number 149999, Charity number 249424
Telephone: 0161 828 1400