Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance


elim.org.uk/coronavirus

 

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: 24/11/20 2:00 pm 


Guidance for churches

The following details are regularly reviewed and updated, so please do keep checking back.

Reopening church 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.

Following the government announcement on Saturday 31 October 2020 regarding a new national lockdown in England from Thursday 5 November to 2 December to limit the spread of COVID-19, the updated guidance regarding places of worship have been published.

Places of Worship (includes Sunday services, midweek activities, children's and youth work) are required to close for the duration of the national restrictions unless they are being used for:

  • Funerals. Up to 30 people can gather for a funeral as per the current restrictions.
  • Broadcasting or filming services. This is to enable a leader to record or live-broadcast an act of worship, enabling people to worship online.
  • Childcare and education. Formal childcare, including registered nurseries, can continue to operate.
  • Essential voluntary and public services. These can include structured activities such as blood donations or Foodbanks and more informal gatherings such as some support groups.

 

Weddings will NOT be permitted during the new national restrictions except in exceptional circumstances. It is expected that these exceptional circumstances will relate to cases of a terminal illness.

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. 

Churches should maintain staff and visitor logs, and display an official NHS QR code poster (only for England and Wales) to help visitors use the NHS Test and Trace app.

From Wednesday 2 December

The government announced its COVID-19 winter plan for England which comes into force next week once the current lockdown ends.

Places of worship in England will be permitted to reopen for public worship from Wednesday 2 December. Churches will need to follow the social distancing requirements of the updated local restriction tier system, so please take a moment to read these new details to ensure that you are clear what you can and cannot do in each tier.

On Thursday 26 November the government will announce which areas are in which tier.

Local restriction tiers and places of worship

These are broadly the same as the tiers that were in place before the national lockdown was put in place. However, some adjustments have been made to improve their impact on managing transmission risks.

The following table summarises the key points of what churches will be able to do in the different tiers.
 

Activity 
Medium (Tier 1)
High (Tier 2)
Very High (Tier 3)
Opening Places of Worship for communal prayer 
Open for as many people as can be safely accommodated with social distancing measures 
 
Attending Places of Worship for communal prayer 
Can attend and interact in groups of up to 6 people from different households 
Can only interact indoors with your own households, but outdoors can interact in groups of up to 6 
Can only interact with your own household both indoors
and outdoors  
Wedding Ceremonies 
Can take place with up to 15 attendees, all of whom can interact. 
 
Wedding Receptions 
Can take place with up to 15 attendees, all of whom can interact 
Can take place with up to 15 attendees, all of whom can interact 
Cannot take place 
Funerals 
Can take place with up to 30 attendees, all of whom can interact 
 
Commemorative events post-death 
Can take place with up to 15 attendees, all of whom can interact 
 
Other Standalone Life-Cycle Ceremonies – that do not take place as a part of communal worship
Can attend and interact in groups of up to 6 people from different households 
Can only interact indoors with your own households, but outdoors can interact in groups of up to 6 
Can only interact with your own household both indoors and outdoors 
Supervised Activities for Children (including Sunday schools, etc.) 
Can take place with no limit on the number of children permitted to attend, following COVID-Secure guidance. Adults must ensure social distancing at all times. 

Across all tiers, everyone:

From 2 November, the Scottish Government has implemented a new strategic approach based on five levels of protection.   The protection levels can be applied either locally or nationally.

There are rules at all 5 levels of the strategic framework about how many people may attend a place of worship:

  • In a place affected by baseline/level 0 and level 1 – existing Cap of 50 people subject to 2 metre capacity.  Outdoor worship of up to 200 can still take place as per outdoor live event guidance
  • In a place affected by any of level 2 or 3 restrictions – existing Cap of 50 people subject to 2 metre capacity (indoor or within the grounds/enclosed spaces of a place of worship).  Larger outdoor events can no longer take place. 
  • At level 4, there is a reduced Cap for worship which has been set at 20 people either inside a place of worship or within the grounds/enclosed spaces.


These limits are necessary for public health reasons.

Places of worship are now able to open for a number of permitted purposes, including, but not limited to:

  • individual prayer or contemplation
  • congregational services, including pre-arranged or scheduled acts of worship and communal prayer
  • broadcasting acts of worship
  • funeral services (separate guidance is available on this)
  • marriage ceremonies (read the separate guidance on this)
  • religious life event ceremonies, such as baptisms
  • Churches should assess how many a building can accommodate while maintaining appropriate physical distancing. Therefore, some building may accommodate fewer people.
  • 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 at all 5 levels of the strategic framework, following each tiers requirements.
  • 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.
  • Following the recent firebreak in Wales, places of worship can re-open in a similar manner prior to the lockdown. However, there are some important requirements for churches to follow and the full 'Guidance on reopening places of worship' has been updated on the Welsh government website. A summary is available for church leaders on ElimNET. There are some important points to note:
  • The number of people attending a service, wedding or funeral inside a church/place of worship remain dictated by the safe capacity of the building to keep people at 2 metre physical distancing.
  • There is a limit of 15 people attending any organised activity within a community centre (which would include a church hall or church used as a community centre).
  • The limit of 30 people, physically distanced, remains for organised outdoor services.
  • Congregational singing is not permitted.
  • Singing outdoors is permissible with strict social distancing and at low volume.
  • Funeral and wedding services remain by invitation only. There is a limit of 15 people attending any reception or event after such services which should be held in COVID-19 secure premises such as a hotel or community centre.
  • Activities in community centres (church halls). Any activity can legally be undertaken as long as it is organised by a club or recognised body within the legal limits on numbers attending (15). Social gatherings including parties cannot take place.

The Northern Ireland Executive have agreed new lockdown restrictions that take effect from Friday 27 November until Friday 11 December, when all church services and programmes must return online.

Funerals and weddings can continue, but only with 25 in attendance including pastors and other support staff.

 

External links

UK government for guidance in England

Local COVID alert levels: what you need to know [ENGLAND]  
Information on local COVID alert levels, including what they mean, why they are being introduced and what the different levels are. Includes links to detailed guidance for each level.

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.

Northern Ireland Government

COVID-19: regulations, guidance and what they mean for you [NI]

Scottish Government

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.

Welsh Government

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.

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.