Coronavirus guidance for churches

LATEST ADVICE

Updated Thursday 26 November 2020 – 10:25

A New FAQ has been added to the FAQ section.

The new FAQ is:    Is there any updated advice regarding recording church attendance for schools admissions purposes.  (The response includes and a link to a letter from Deborah Smith, Diocesan Director of Education)

Statement regarding Covid-19 Winter Plan

On 23 November 2020 the Government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan was published.

It confirms that places of worship will be permitted to reopen for public worship when the current national lockdown ends.

The full document is available via this link.

The statement issued by Bishop Sarah Mullally in her capacity as Chair of the Church of England's Recovery Group is available via this link.

Detailed guidance (including which tier(s) areas of the diocese will be assigned to) is yet to be provided.

As information becomes available from central government and the Church of England updated advice will be developed and published on this website. All information on this website reflects the restrictions that apply during the current national lockdown.

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

GREATER MANCHESTER REMEMBERS

Greater Manchester Remembers is an online space to honour those that have died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic who have lived in, or have a link to, Greater Manchester.

BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE


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.

 

CAN OUR CHURCHES REMAIN OPEN FOR COMMUNAL/PUBLIC WORSHIP DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(updated 6 November)

No.

The Government has ordered that places of worship must be closed, apart from for the purposes of independent prayer, and service broadcasting and funerals.

Collective or congregational prayer and regular scheduled services are not permitted. This includes a Minister of religion or lay person/volunteer leading devotions or prayer of any sort. If possible, arrangements should be made to broadcast services, enabling people to watch and worship at home.

 

IS WORSHIP IN A CHURCHYARD OR PUBLIC OUTDOOR SPACE PERMITTED DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(update 9 November)

No.


ARE FUNERALS PERMITTED DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(New FAQ – 4 November)

Yes.

Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people.

Linked ceremonial events such as stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 15 people in attendance.

Anyone working is not counted in the 15 or 30.

Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble. 

 

CAN WEDDINGS TAKE PLACE DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(updated 6 November)

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are not permitted to take place except where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover (‘deathbed wedding’).

The legislation contains the following provisions:

Exception 8: marriages and civil partnerships etc

(11) Exception 8 is that—

(a) the gathering is for the purposes of—

(i) the solemnisation of a marriage in accordance with the Marriage (Registrar General’s Licence) Act 1970(a);

(ii) the solemnisation of a marriage by special licence under the Marriage Act 1949(b), where at least one of the parties to the marriage is seriously ill and not expected to recover;

(iii) the formation of a civil partnership under the special procedure provided for in Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004(a);

(iv) the conversion of a civil partnership to a marriage under the special procedure provided for in regulation 9 of the Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Conversion of Civil Partnership) Regulations 2014(b), or (v) an alternative wedding ceremony, where one of the parties to the marriage is seriously ill and not expected to recover, and for these purposes, “alterative wedding ceremony” has the meaning given in regulation 6(11),

(b) the gathering consists of no more than 6 people,

(c) the gathering takes place—

(i) at a private dwelling,

(ii) at premises which are operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body,

(iii) at premises which are part of premises used for the operation of a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic  institution or a public body, or

(iv) in a public outdoor place not falling within paragraph (ii) or (iii), and

(d) the gathering organiser or manager takes the required precautions in relation to the gathering (see regulation 14).

For the purposes of the Church of England, this effectively means that it is just couples who are able to obtain a special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury which are able to be married. Such licences can only be obtained via the Faculty Office (https://www.facultyoffice.org.uk/) and not from the diocesan registry.

The requirement is for one of the couple to be seriously ill and not expected to recover. This does not extend to situations where it is a close family member who is terminally ill.

As this is enshrined in law there is, very sadly, no room for any discretion to be exercised.

These weddings are limited to 6 people.

 


WHAT GUIDANCE IS AVAILABLE TO ENABLE INDEPENDENT PRAYER TO TAKE PLACE IN CHURCHES DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(updated 6 November 2020)

Our churches can remain open for individual prayer, which is defined as a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act.

Detailed advice is contained in the document: COVID-19 Advice on Individual Prayer by Members of the public in Church Buildings.

 

WHAT GUIDANCE IS AVAILABLE TO SUPPORT “BROADCASTING OF SERVICES” DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(updated 9 November 2020)

For those broadcasting a service, they can bring together those people essential for the content of the service, and for technical support. If musicians or singers usually form part of the service being broadcast, they may participate but only if they are essential to the delivery of the service. The numbers or people involved should be kept as small as possible to minimise risks and participants should follow strict hygiene and physical distancing measures.

No congregation may be present.

Detailed guidance is contained in the following document: COVID-19 Livestreaming Worship

 

ARE PASTORAL VISITS PERMITTED DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(New FAQ – 13 November 2020)

The Church of England advice is that visits to the homes of people are permitted for work purposes. Further advice on undertaking these visits is available within this guidance document: COVID-19 Advice on pastoral support in the community, including care homes


 

IS THERE ANY UPDATED ADVICE REGARDING RECORDING CHURCH ATTENDANCE FOR SCHOOLS ADMISSIONS PURPOSES?

(New FAQ – 25 November 2020)

Yes.  On 24 November 2020 Deborah Smith produced a document that gives advice and information – it can be accessed here: School Admissions Advice Update November 2020.

 

CAN CHOIR PRACTICE OR BELL RINGING TAKE PLACE DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(New FAQ – 6 November 2020)

No. Amateur choir practice or group bell ringing is not permitted at this time.

 

CAN ANY COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES CAN TAKE PLACE IN CHURCH BUILDINGS DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(New FAQ – 4 November 2020)

The government have stated that community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities.

The exempt activities are:

(a) Support Groups

Support groups can take place with up to a maximum of 15 people, if the support group is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend its meetings.

This includes, but is not limited to, providing support:

  • to victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
  • to those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
  • to new and expectant parents
  • to those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness, disability or terminal condition or who are vulnerable
  • to those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
  • to those who have suffered bereavement
  • Parent and child groups can continue where they provide support to parent and/or child, and children under 5 will not be counted within the 15-person limit – meaning parents and cares can attend such groups in larger numbers

(b) Childcare and supervised activities for children

  • Early years settings can continue to be used as normal
  • Childcare activities (including wraparound care) where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work, seek work, attend education or training, or for the purposes of respite care for carers
  • Facilitated activities for children where these provide a childcare function for working parents are allowed to continue

(c) Education and Training

  • This is now defined by the government as being “where education is towards a formal qualification as part of the core curriculum and training is for professional/work-related development”

(d) Blood donation

(e) Food banks

Parishes are advised that:

  • Individual PCCs must determine if their premises can be used by other user groups, to undertake activities that are permitted by law and are in line with the current regulations.

Parishes are also reminded that if an activity takes place within the premises:

Risk Assessments

  • The organiser must carry out a statutory risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit risk of transmission of coronavirus.
  • If engaging in permitted activities users of COVID-19 secure community facilities should limit their social interactions with anyone they do not live with.
  • “Users and hirers of a community facility have responsibility for managing risks arising from their own activities when they have control of premises and should take account of any guidance relevant to their specific activity or sector.”

Social Distancing

  • It is important for all parties to maintain socially distant, 2 metres or 1 metre with actions taken to reduce the risk of transmission (where 2 metres is not viable) between households.

Face Coverings

  • On entering a community facility users are required to wear a face covering, and will be required to keep it on, unless covered under a ‘reasonable excuse’.

Test and Trace

  • Community centres and village halls must collect information for all activities and events taking place within the venue. This should be collected by the person who hires the space. The venue must display an official NHS QR code poster which can be used for every activity that takes place there.
  • Any designated venue that is found not to be compliant with these regulations will be subject to financial penalties; starting at £1,000 and rising up to £10,000 upon repeat offences.
  • Individual PCCs must ensure that measures are in place in order to comply with the mandatory requirement to have a Test and Trace system in place

Full information is available within this document: COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities.

 

IS IT A REQUIREMENT FOR OUR CHURCHES TO HAVE A COVID-19 RISK ASSESSMENT IN PLACE DURING THE NATIONAL LOCKDOWN?

(updated 9 November 2020)

Yes.

For our church buildings to be open we need to have conducted a risk assessment.

The latest version of the risk assessment template was published on 6 November 2020: https://www.churchofengland.org/media/20510

The Safer Churches document also illustrates safe ways to manage the flow of people into and out of the building while noting that corporate worship and some of the other activities it mentions are not possible at this time.

Parishes are reminded that under existing Health & Safety legislation, failure to complete a risk assessment that accounts for Covid-19 could constitute a breach of that legislation, as could having a risk assessment with insufficient measures.

The actions the enforcing authority can take include the provision of specific advice to employers to support them to achieve the required standard, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements. Serious breaches and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years.


 

WHAT DO CHURCHES NEED TO DO ABOUT TEST AND TRACE?

(updated 22 September 2020)

New regulations relating to Test and Trace were introduced from 18 September 2020.

The Government have stated that places of worship should keep a record of those who have attended to facilitate NHS Test and Trace.

Providing information for Test and Trace is voluntary. If somebody informs you that they do not want to provide their details to be shared for the purposes of NHS Test and Trace, they can choose to opt out.

The detailed advice note that all churches are encouraged to read (published in August 2020) remains current for now: NHS Test & Trace Data.

As are the following templates:

Test and Trace Consent Form

Test and Trace online privacy notice template

Test and Trace privacy notice template

Greater Manchester Combined Authority have conveyed a request from the NHS that public venues, such as places of worship, display a QR code to aid in Test and Trace, to support the launch of a new app on Thursday 24 September 2020.

Download Introducing the NHS covid-19 App

Download How to create a QR poster for your venue

 

WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS WE SHOULD TAKE IF WE BELIEVE THERE HAS BEEN A LOCAL OUTBREAK?

(New FAQ – 11 August 2020)

The government has produced an action card. It includes all relevant steps that should be followed.

Download action card.

 

WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEBODY WHO HAS ATTENDED CHURCH TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19?

(New FAQ – 15 September 2020)

The person who tested positive will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace. They will determine who the "contacts" are of that person by asking them where they went etc.

There are criteria as to who would be a "contact". They are set out in the government guidance document about Test and Trace.

A ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from 2 days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others). For example, a contact can be:

  • people who spend significant time in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 sexual partners a person who has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, including:
    • being coughed on
    • having a face-to-face conversation within one metre 
    • having skin-to-skin physical contact, or contact within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact 
    • a person who has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes 
    • a person who has travelled in a small vehicle with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or in a large vehicle or plane near someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 
    • Where an interaction between 2 people has taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, this would not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact such as any of those indicated above.

If you are a contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, then you will be notified by the NHS Test and Trace service via text message, email or phone.

If you have not been notified that you are a contact, this means you do not need to self-isolate and should follow the general guidance, for example, social distancing, hand-washing, and covering coughs and sneezes.

 


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?

(updated 10 November 2020)

No, faculty jurisdiction has not been suspended. If the works concerned require faculty or List B approval, this is still needed and you 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.

Specific advice regarding the display of public notices for faculty applications has now been received from the Chancellor – it is available via this link.

PRAYERS

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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