Following the advice for re-opening places of worship provided by the UK government and respective devolved administrations in Northern Ireland , Scotland , Wales , Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, we are continuing to review and update guidance for our churches and ministers.
We are still in a phase where there is a cautious approach to easing the necessary restrictions put in place for the period of lockdown.
Public safety, both individual and community, remains paramount. It is still vital that the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are kept in place in order to protect the NHS and save lives. Individuals are encouraged to follow the guidance issued by the government and NHS .
The governments in each jurisdiction are on broadly similar yet distinct pathways and timelines towards transitioning out of lockdown. Therefore, the details on ElimNET will provide separate guidelines, advice and resources that are region-specific. These will be updated in line with significant changes in government and public health advice.
No place of worship will be able to reopen before a decision by the respective government and churches must follow this published guidance. Elim churches will need the permission of the national/regional office to reopen. From that point, each individual church will be able to open safely and responsibly as and when they feel ready and able to do so.
A series of Frequently Asked Questions are answered below, with additional information and full details of regional variations available for Elim leaders on ElimNET at elim.org.uk/coronavirusresource
The information on this page is regularly updated, so please check back to ensure you have the latest guidance.
Last updated: 15 September 2020 3:00pm
Guidance for churches
The following details are regularly reviewed and updated, so please do keep checking back.
Reopening chuch buildings and facilities
Churches across the United Kingdom have been able to reopen for public services since July, with each of the four nations of the UK relaxing restrictions at different rates and with separate rules and guidance relating to churches and church activities.
Church facilities can reopen for public worship services. There is no set limit on numbers, but the venue capacity is subject to appropriate physical distancing.
Services can be a Sunday service, a prayer or bible study meeting, led by the church minister or leader.
Small groups of professional or non-professional singers are able to sing in front of worshippers both outdoors and indoors from 15 August. Singing in groups should be limited to a small, set group of people and should not include audience participation.
Activities such as singing, chanting, shouting and/or playing of instruments that are blown into should be specifically avoided by congregations/worshippers
Social interaction should be restricted before, during and after the service in the same way as everywhere else in society, following the new government guidance.
The classification of places of worship includes buildings, land owned by the church and venues hired for the purpose of worship services.
Weddings can take place with a maximum of 30 people present (this includes all people involved in the ceremony).
Baptisms can now take place subject to specific guidelines. See links below.
Activities for children and young people, within, alongside and separate to main worship services can take place provided they operate in accordance with the guidance on out of school settings. The main recommended measure to limit the risk of infection is that children over the age of five should be in small fixed groups of no more than 15 people. See below for the guidelines provided by Limitless.
Face masks are mandatory in England. There is an exemption for those who are leading the service and speaking from the front who do not have to wear a mask while doing so.
Everyone should limit social contact as much as possible and minimise all interactions with those they do not live with.
When travelling to, entering and inside places of worship, people should observe strict social distancing from anyone not in their household. This applies before, during and after your church service.
If you are attending with other people, then the group you are attending with should not exceed more than 6 people.
This group of 6 can be made up of people from outside your household, but strict social distancing must be maintained between members of different households at all times.
Church facilities can reopen for public worship services, with a limit of 50 people attending.
Churches should assess how many a building can accommodate while maintaining appropriate physical distancing. Therefore, some building may accommodate fewer people.
Outdoor spaces can only be used for worship services if they are enclosed within the place of worship, for example, a courtyard.
Congregational singing is strongly advised against. Only one singer may sing at any one time in Wales and the guidance in Scotland suggests the same.
Face masks are mandatory in Scotland. There is an exemption for those who are leading the service and speaking from the front who do not have to wear a mask while doing so.
Weddings can now take place with a maximum of 20 people present (this includes all people involved in the ceremony), in Scotland the limit is 20.
Baptisms are allowed to take place in accordance with the general places of worship guidelines.
Children and young people should practice social distancing, however, it is understood that this may be harder to achieve with young children. Young people over the age of 5 are required to wear face coverings. Youthwork and church youth groups can operate, however, there are some restrictions on activities, for example, young people over 12 should not take part in contact sports.
Small groups with more than 6 people from 2 households or prayer walks are affected and should not take place.
Church facilities can reopen for public worship services.
Indoor worship services indoors have no fixed limit, but the venue capacity is subject to the appropriate physical distancing of 2 metres between households.
Outdoor services have a maximum limit of 30 people.
No congregational singing should take place and if a singer is leading worship at the front of a congregation a screen should be placed between them.
Weddings can take place with a maximum of 30 people present (this includes all people involved in the ceremony)
Unless a baptism is performed by a household member, self immersion is recommended.
Churches can provide supervised children and youth work for people up to the age of 18. Activities for children up to 11 are more relaxed, but older children are subject to the same rules as adults and other activities in a place of worship.
It is now mandatory for facemasks to be worn in public indoor spaces, with some exceptions. People with specific health conditions and all children under the age of 11 are exempt from wearing facemasks.
Churches in Northern Ireland can reopen for public worship.
The executive has published guidance for how churches should operate. Most legal restrictions have now been removed.
There is no cap on attendance. This is subject to each premises and the number of people who can be accommodated while safely maintaining appropriate distancing.
The guidance does not explicitly advise against singing but says where this takes place it should be done at a quiet volume to limit the spread of the virus.
Additional activities and information
All Elim churches need to have the permission of their regional office in order to reopen church services and gatherings. Once that permission is given for each jurisdiction, local churches are able to make their own decision about when to reopen in-person worship services, subject to having submitted a full risk assessment. Each church must follow government guidelines concerning public safety, hygiene to ensure not only safe opening but safe and responsible operating going forward.
Elim's National Leadership Team advise that face masks or coverings should be worn by all congregants, except in cases where its use could exacerbate an individual’s health condition, such as those with respiratory conditions.
The wearing of face coverings is not a requirement for attending children of school age. Clinically vulnerable individuals or those aged 70 years or over, regardless of medical conditions, may choose to stay at home and access the worship services via other means.
The live streaming of services from Elim churches is permitted. In the first phase of COVID-19 response churches have worked hard to move services and a range of ministries online. We encourage our churches to continue to develop online ministry and going forward, to incorporate it into church life in the many creative initiatives that have been used or shaped during lockdown.
Local churches have the flexibility to develop their online services to reflect their local situation. Services can be done from home with people from the same household, from the church building or a combination of both. Under current guidelines, we continue to stress that when broadcast from a church building, this should be done with the minimum number of people for the maximum safety following the relevant requirements of the devolved governments.
They must observe strict social distancing and hygiene practices after conducting a risk assessment. Staff members and volunteers must not be pressured or compelled but be willing of their own volition to take part. Anyone who falls into the government requirements to isolate at home for any period of time should not be in attendance.
This guidance will be subject to regular review as circumstances and government and public health advice progresses.
Weddings can now take place in all four nations of the UK, with slightly different limits on how many people can attend. In England and Wales a maximum of 30 people may be present (this includes all people involved in the ceremony), in Scotland the limit is 20, while in Northern Ireland the limit is based on the capacity of a venue while social distancing is maintained.
In England and Scotland it is a requirement for all attending to wear a face covering, with the exception of the Bride and Groom and the minister officiating the service. In England those who are also speaking from the front, for example, giving readings or leading prayers, may also not wear a mask while doing so.
In England there is an additional allowance for small wedding receptions of up to 30 people to take place, while in the other nations of the UK the regular guidelines on social gatherings apply.
Baptisms should follow the guidance proviced by each devolved government government. On 21 August, the government in England released new guidance relating to full immersion baptism which sets out a number of rules for officiants and participants to follow when performing baptisms by immersion.
The rules relating to full immersion baptism have recently been relaxed so that in England these can now take place subject to specific guidelines. In particular the advice is against ‘cradling’ the baptism candidate, and instead placing hands on their head to submerge them. As the Baptist Union notes in their guidance, if the person baptising the candidate is a member of their household the usual practice can be followed. This guidance also suggests other alternatives, such as affusion, where water is poured over the candidate.
In Wales, unless the baptism is performed by a household member, self immersion is recommended. In Scotland baptisms are allowed to take place in accordance with the general places of worship guidelines.
Baptisms should follow the guidance proviced by each devolved government government. For example, on 21 August, the government in England released new guidance relating to full immersion baptism which sets out a number of rules for officiants and participants to follow when performing baptisms by immersion.
Recognising the particular sensitivities surrounding the conducting of funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic, government restrictions are beginning to ease. Yet, the challenges surrounding the reintroduction of funerals in church buildings are particularly difficult.
Details of when and how funerals can take place have been issued by each devolved government and details published on their websites. Links to these sites are available below and on ElimNET. Elim churches will need to wait until they have received NLT clearance for their building to reopen before planning funeral services in their buildings.
Churches will need to assess how and whether they are able to conduct funerals safely in the light of their full risk assessment and in consultation with local undertakers and funeral services.
We encourage ministers where possible to consider discussing with the family the possibility of a memorial service to be conducted for their loved one at a later time, though this is obviously something to be handled with discretion and sensitivity.
Foodbanks should continue where possible, as they have throughout lockdown. The main priority is ensuring the safety of everyone who comes to a food bank – whether it’s someone needing help, someone volunteering their time, or someone making a donation.
National organisations such as Trussell Trust are in daily contact with the food banks in their network about their local situation. They are centrally issuing updated guidance every day in a special daily bulletin, so please ensure you follow their national guidance.
Anyone running a food bank should follow the advice found on the Trussell Trust’s website. trusselltrust.org/coronavirus-food-banks
COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of places of worship from 4 July [ENGLAND]
This guidance is designed to assist places of worship in England to prepare to open for a broader range of activities on 4 July.
COVID-19: Special religious services and gatherings COVID-19 checklist [ENGLAND]
This guidance provides key principles that should help make decisions that ensure individuals can all take part in special religious services and gatherings safely.
COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships [ENGLAND]
This guidance is designed to assist people in planning to get married or form a civil partnership in England.
COVID-19: Guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic [ENGLAND]
This advice is designed to assist people who are involved in managing or organising a funeral related to death from any cause during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities [ENGLAND]
This guidance is of a general nature and should be treated as a guide. In the event of any conflict between any applicable legislation (including the health and safety legislation) and this guidance, the applicable legislation shall prevail.
Local restrictions: areas with an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) – Details of what you can and cannot do [ENGLAND]
A list of areas in England with additional local restrictions, what to do and how to manage the outbreak.
Wearing Face coverings [England]
Face coverings are currently mandatory on public transport and in a range of indoor venues. From 8 August, this includes places of worship and church halls. While there are exemptions, this is a legal requirement.
COVID-19: regulations, guidance and what they mean for you [NI]
COVID-19: Phase 3: guidance for the safe use of places of worship [SCOTLAND]
Guidance to help places of worship in Scotland to safely open for limited permitted activities, including individual prayer or contemplation.
COVID-19: Scotland's route map. Gatherings and occasions - what you can and cannot do Information about easing the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Wearing Face coverings [Scotland]
The First Minister announced that from Saturday 8 August 2020 the wearing of face coverings in places of worship will be mandatory. The worship leader will be exempt from wearing a face covering when they are leading worship, provided additional safeguards are in place (for example, 2 metre physical distancing and/or a protective screen or barrier). Further details and guidance will be issued as soon as possible after legislation is published by the Scottish Government.
Local restrictions [Scotland]: areas with an outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) – Details of what you can and cannot do
A list of areas in Scotland with additional local restrictions, what to do and how to manage the outbreak.
COVID-19: Guidance on reopening places of worship [WALES]
This guidance is designed to assist places of worship in Wales to prepare to open for a limited range of public worship from 19 July 2020.
COVID-19: Guidance to local authorities and places of worship on marriages and civil partnerships: coronavirus [WALES]
This guidance is designed to assist registry offices and places of worship in the planning and running of a marriage ceremony during the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID-19: Places of worship, cemeteries and funerals [WALES]
Part of the Coronavirus regulations - frequently asked questions.
COVID-19: Guidance document on funerals: COVID-19 [WALES]
A detailed document on funerals in Wales.
COVID-19: Safe use of multi-purpose community centres [WALES]
Guidance on the reopening and safe use of multi-purpose community centres in Wales.
Elim leaders resources
ElimNET provides additional information for Elim leaders at elim.org.uk/coronavirusresource
We are aware this is a very difficult time and will prompt further questions. We are working to produce some FAQs, along with adding new guidance on this page. This will take time, so please be patient and check back to this page for more details. Also we will share updates through our social media accounts, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.