Re-opening of places of worship

On Monday 29 June, the Government published its guidelines about the re-opening and safe use of places of worship in England from this Saturday, 4 July. Under the new guidelines, those responsible in each place of worship will carry responsibility to carry out a risk assessment concerning activities and attendance. The detailed guidelines cover maximum capacities, the use of shared items, food and drink, singing and musical instruments, toilets, cleaning and face coverings.

As the move back to corporate gatherings begins, the Government is, however, encouraging the continued use of internet technology, writing, ‘It is recommended that, where possible, places of worship continue to stream worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.’

In addition, the Government has published guidelines for the conduct of weddings and funerals. These allow up to 30 people to gather, though strict social distancing must be maintained at all times and a range of other restrictions remain in place. Singing will not be allowed at the ceremony and receptions are discouraged. Read the full Government guidelines concerning the safe use of places of worship HERE, and those concerning weddings and funerals HERE.

In response to the Government’s new guidelines, the Methodist Church of Great Britain has issued detailed directions to its members concerning the reopening of Methodist places of worship. The directions can be found HERE.

The Church of England’s guidance for reopening its church buildings can be accessed HERE.

Other Churches are digesting the Government guidelines and will be issuing advice to their constituencies soon. However, there seems little prospect of returning to ‘business as usual’ in the near future. In a pastoral letter issued on 25 June, Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley, along with the Archbishops of Westminster, Liverpool and Southwark, asks Catholics to consider carefully if, how and when to return to Mass. They also encourage the continued use of live-streaming of services. Read the Archbishops’ letter HERE.

The United Reformed Church has produced a number of documents to help church leaders and members to consider what the future of church might look like. The excellent ‘Emerging into the New Normal’ booklet can be downloaded free-of-charge in .pdf format HERE. The ‘Preparing for the reopening of church buildings’ page of the Churches Together in England website points to numerous resources, including a sample Covid-19 risk assessment document from the New Testament Assembly. Access the resources at THIS WEBPAGE.

Each and all the above webpages are worthy of regular re-visits, since the information and guidance contained in them is being updated on a very regular basis.

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