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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccines

COVID-19 Vaccines - FAQs, papers, videos and resources  

 

Last updated: 18/04/21 4:00 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.

The UK government has announced that churches in England may meet together for public worship services in their building during the new lockdown.

People can continue to go to places of worship for a service. When a service is taking place indoors they must not mingle in groups larger than 6, except when everyone present is from no more than 2 households (including support bubbles).

They should maintain social distancing of 2 metres between groups at all times. In situations where closer contact cannot be avoided, extra Public Health precautions must then be taken.

When a service is taking place outdoors, they must not mingle in groups larger than 30.

Continue to follow the updated national guidance on the safe use of places of worship.

Step 3 guidance for the safe use of places of worship

The guidance for places of worship was updated on Friday 14 May and provides full details of the latest changes. The key things that have changed include:

  • Most other significant life events can resume, limited to no more than 30 people. This will include events such as private baptisms. Limits at weddings, wedding receptions, wakes and other commemorative events will be increased to 30 people. Please refer to the guidance for weddings.

  • Funerals will have no legal cap on the number of people who can attend. The number of attendees will be determined by how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. Please refer to COVID-19: guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Outdoors most legal restrictions on meeting others will be lifted - although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal unless otherwise exempt.

  • Support groups and parent and child group gathering limits will increase to 30 people (not including under 5s). More information about how to run or attend a support group safely is available in the guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities.

COVID Secure rules, including social distancing requirements, continue to apply in the workplace, and in businesses and public venues.

At Step 4, which will take place no earlier than 21 June, the government aims to remove all limits on life cycle events and other gatherings. This will be subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme, which will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events of larger sizes. The pilots have been selected to examine a range of settings, venue types, and activity types (e.g. seated or not, indoor/outdoor etc) so that the data is generalisable and findings can inform thinking on the reopening of similar settings across multiple sectors.

The COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship will be updated in line with the changing situation ahead of that step.

COVID-19: Guidance for weddings  

The latest changes came into effect on 17 May 2021.

The Scottish Government has carried out a complete review of their guidance. As we move to a system of different levels of protection that may be applied nationally or locally, the aim is for the guidance to reflect the levels so that it does not need to be changed so often. 

  • Most of mainland Scotland has moved to level two restrictions with the exception of areas including Moray and Glasgow, where infection rates remain high.
  • For places of worship, the key change is that singing, chanting and/or the playing of any instrument in small groups (i.e. small non-professional choirs and bands) will be permitted to resume for areas level 0 - 2.
  • Congregational singing for areas within levels 0 - 1 is currently under review, and a further update will be published by the Scottish Government once it is available.
  • A maximum of 100 people at weddings, funerals and other life events
  • The city of Glasgow and the area of Moray remain under level three restrictions where up to 50 people can attend funerals.

Any other activities that may normally take place in a place of worship (including associated meeting halls) are subject to the regulations and guidance applicable to that activity and the protection level for the area.  The Scottish Government website sets out  the rules on what you can and cannot do

Opening for any purpose remains subject to 2m physical distancing and hygiene safeguards.

Those responsible for places of worship must ensure that people are able to maintain a distance of 2 metres at all times from others who are not part of their household, and should limit the numbers attending services accordingly. More detail is provided under Restrictions on capacity

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the safe use of places of worship  

  • The numbers for indoor organised activities will increase from 15 to 30 people and similarly, the number for organised outdoor activities goes from 30 to 50.
  • Marriages and funerals continue to be permitted at the capacity of the building.
  • Congregational singing is still not possible during services, and where singing is led from the front, you should continue to use a range of preventative measures.
  • Baptism. You can now use your own baptism tank without needing to follow the guidelines for swimming pools. Chlorinating the water in your tank when baptising more than one person is advisable.
  • Refreshments continue to not be permitted in places of worship.

Places of worship are permitted to open for acts of worship. However, numbers attending must be determined by a risk assessment.

For other activities that take part in church buildings, the current regulations allow up to six people from a maximum of two households to meet in non-domestic indoor settings, for a permitted reason.

Face coverings must be worn inside the building and when entering and exiting.

This does not apply to the person leading worship or to a couple who are at a ceremony to solemnise their marriage or to form their civil partnership. 

Face covering exemptions also apply.

The regulations are available on the Department of Health website Health protection coronavirus restrictions regulations

Many places of worship are also workplaces and should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers under health and safety law.

 


Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine

Whilst respecting that receiving a Covid-19 vaccine is an issue of individual conscience, the Elim National Leadership Team views the provision of current coronavirus vaccines as an answer to prayer and an extension of God’s common grace.

We recognise that some believers have expressed concerns about the Covid-19 vaccination programme and we do not wish to minimise these convictions. That said, we would highlight the need to seek good sources in light of the prevalence of misinformation that is currently circulating and advise you not to neglect the specific advice of your medical professionals.

For our part, having weighed the ethical considerations and the risk to life, we see no moral objection for Christians to accept a vaccine against Covid-19, which has devastated so many. We regard vaccination as one of the best ways to control the pandemic, lessen the pressure on the NHS, save lives and ultimately express our Christian duty of loving one’s neighbour and protecting the vulnerable.

Below is our response to some frequently asked questions about the vaccine, along with some links to vaccine articles, interviews and webinars.

Does the vaccine contain tissues from an aborted foetus?

The vaccines available to UK citizens do not contain tissue from an aborted foetus. They do either contain, or have been tested on, what are called “immortal cell lines”. These are cells that have been artificially replicated in a laboratory and their origin is cells from an abortion that took place in the Netherlands in 1973. These cells are used because they produce much more accurate indicators of the effectiveness of the vaccines than using animal cells would.

Is it ethical to receive a vaccine that some say is “morally tainted”?

The issue of whether we receive a vaccine that is “morally tainted” is complex.

Firstly, we must consider the question of whether all Christians would consider the vaccine morally tainted, or whether that would be a view that is held by some but not by all.

Secondly, there is the question of personal, moral responsibility to consider. This links to the question of the proximity of your decision to the aspect of the vaccine that you consider morally tainted. For example, a researcher may well feel unable to work on a vaccine that uses live cells from an aborted foetus, whilst she may feel more able to use immortal cell lines. Similarly, one person may feel unable to take a vaccine because it has immortal cell lines in its history or testing, whilst for another this is not a present moral issue.

Thirdly, there is the question of whether taking the vaccine contributes to a perpetuation of moral evil around the vaccine’s development or not.

Fourthly, you must consider whether there are clashing moral and ethical choices involved (sometimes called “graded absolutism”) where more than one moral imperative exists, and you must decide which one will have priority. For example, there is a moral imperative to protect the vulnerable - some may believe that this means that the vulnerable unborn is protected by a decision not to take the vaccine, whilst others might believe that the vulnerable in society are protected by taking the vaccine.

The questions, then, are around proximity (how close am I to the cause of the moral dilemma?); responsibility (how much would the issue in question be my responsibility or would I be seen to be endorsing something that I consider evil?); consequence (does my decision enable further evil or justify evil?); precedence (am I confronted with more than one moral choice and which one must be placed first in my decisions?); and understanding (is the issue in question universally understood as evil in a primary sense or are there different, biblically justifiable understandings of the issue itself?). Of course all of these issues must be considered in the light of true facts and not false ones.

Applying all of these to the matter of taking the vaccine is complex and challenging; Elim acknowledges that faithful Christians will make different choices on this issue because our assessment of these criteria will not be uniform.

Have the Covid vaccines been developed too quickly to be safe?

The vaccines have all gone through the same trials that any other vaccine would. The difference is not in how rigorously they have been tested but in how efficiently the testing process has been. The scientific community have collaborated to accelerate the process with comprehensive test groups and to share their information. Vaccines go through a three phase trial to produce data, which is then comprehensively examined by an independent body to ensure safety. This has happened for all of the vaccines being used in the UK.

In addition, it is worth remembering that every year a new influenza vaccine is produced in around 7-9 months, so the speed of the vaccine development is also not entirely new. If there are any concerns about a recipient of a vaccine being at risk, then the vaccine will be delivered in a hospital setting (there are always some small risks associated with any vaccine). If you have any concerns, you should talk about them to a medical professional such as your GP.

Is the vaccine the mark of the beast or is there any relationship between the two?

There is no evidence that the vaccine is the mark of the beast or that there is any relationship between the two. The idea of the “mark of the beast” is found in the Book of Revelation. Whether one interprets the mark symbolically or literally, it signifies allegiance to and worship of the “beast” (Rev. 16:2; 19:20). Revelation also suggests that not taking the mark “on the right hand or the forehead” means that one is not able to “buy or sell” (Rev. 13:16-17). In light of these passages, it is worth pointing out that taking the vaccine does not require any Christian to forfeit their allegiance to and worship of God. Furthermore, there is no evidence that taking the vaccine is a condition to be able to be able to “buy and sell”. Therefore, the coronavirus vaccine should not be seen as the mark of the beast.

It is possible that if you do not take the vaccine, your access to things like international travel could be restricted in the future. However, similar restrictions already exist in relation to different spheres of society. For example, you already need to have taken different vaccines to be able to travel to certain countries, you need a National Insurance number to work in the UK, as well as a valid driving license to drive on public roads. The point is that in the same way as having a National Insurance number or possessing a driving licence does not mean that you have taken the “mark of the beast”, the Covid-19 vaccine should neither be understood in this manner.

Is taking the vaccine a demonstration of lack of faith in God?

Historically some Pentecostals have opposed the use of modern medicine and seen it as a lack of faith in God. However, the Bible does not condemn the use of medicine and this is not the position of the Elim Pentecostal Church. The gifts of medicine, medical experts, and the body’s natural capacity to fight disease should be celebrated as part of God’s good creation, and should not be seen in contradiction with the “gifts of healing” identified in 1 Corinthians 12:9. Indeed, as noted in the statement above, we view “the provision of the current coronavirus vaccines as an answer to prayer and an extension of God’s common grace”.

Biblical passages like 2 Chronicles 16:12 have been used by some as arguments against the use of medicine. However, this verse in its context makes it clear that King Asa’s sin was that he sought help from his physicians at the expense of “seeking the Lord”. That is, the problem was not the physicians, but Asa’s lack of faith in God. Therefore, we would encourage all Christians to seek God with sincere hearts, as it is from a place of trusting God that the gift of modern medicine, including the coronavirus vaccine, can be received with grateful hearts.

Will there be there a place in Elim for those who do not have the vaccine?

As stated we believe that the vaccine is one of the best ways we currently have to control the pandemic; however, taking a vaccine or indeed any decision around your own health has to be a personal one. With this in mind, it is without doubt that, should someone decide for whatever reason not to have the vaccine, he or she would still be welcome in our churches and as part of the wider Elim family.

I’m an Elim pastor - can my church building be used as a vaccination centre?

As a pastor within Elim, we would encourage you to seek all the ways possible to be “good news” to your community. Taking this into consideration, using our churches as vaccination centres is certainly a good extension of our mission to the communities we serve. We would, however, encourage church leadership teams to seek to support wider community efforts, not compete with them, and also ensure that the demands of offering a building to be used in this way do not prevent its use for its original purpose. Please also refer to Elim’s Management Board before entering into any binding legal contracts.

Vaccine articles, interviews and webinars

In the interests of supporting our ministers and leaders in what can seem like a complex and confusing landscape of information, opinion and even emotion, we have begun to gather together some resources which we trust will help give a fuller understanding of the vaccines themselves and of the key issues and questions which you may find you are being asked about.

In the list below, we highlight several recently produced articles, interviews and webinars from experienced and highly qualified leaders within a range of disciplines which are addressing the major issues surrounding vaccines. Some of these include our own ministers as well as medical professionals and practitioners with expertise in the specific and related fields.

RESOURCES

Coronavirus vaccines and Christian ethics

This article comes from Christian Medical Fellowship, written by John Wyatt who is Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics, Ethics & Perinatology at University College London. Senior researcher at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge.

He covers the broader ethical issues:

  • Vaccine Development
  • Cell Lines
  • Human testing and volunteers
  • Distribution funding and global justice
  • Cooperation with a fallen world
  • Should we accept the Vaccine?
  • A Better way – Champions of HOPE


View web article
 

He has also accompanied it with two podcasts which are clear and thought through and give a full response on wider ethical issues and implications. 

Matters of Life and Death – Coronavirus: Vaccines (42 min)
Website  |  MP3  |  Apple podcast  |  Google   

Matters of Life and Death – Coronavirus: Vaccines part 2 (19 min)
Website  |  MP3  |  Apple podcast  |  Google   
 

Thinking about whether or not you should receive a Covid-19 vaccine?

This article is co-authored by Malcolm Duncan, Debbie Duncan and Chris Shaw which was released earlier this week.

Website
 

Christians And The Conspiracy Theory Contagion

This article by Dominic De Souza looks at the challenge of Conspiracy Theories.

Website 
 

Life after Covid-19 webinar with Patrick Dixon (90 min)

The following YouTube link is to an Interview with Dr Patrick Dixon covering issues of Life after Covid produced by Kensington Temple on KT TV Youtube channel.

YouTube  [commences at 6:56]
 

Making ethical decisions that value human life webinar (Evangelical Alliance)

David Smyth, head of Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland and Dawn McAvoy, co-founder Both Lives Matter, host a conversation with experts from fields of medicine, medical ethics, public policy and conscience on the ethics around a COVID-19 vaccine. Watch here

Evangelical Alliance's recommended reading

 

Wisdom and the Covid Vaccine - Rediscover Church, Exeter

Join Mark Pugh from Elim's church in Exeter as he asks a researcher/lecturer in biomedical sciences and a GP for their insights regarding the Covid 19 vaccine

Watch part 1 here

Watch part 2 here

The coronavirus vaccine - informed perspectives

In this video, Dave Newton hosts a conversation which asks some of these critical questions to help you navigate your way through the ethical issues of the coronavirus vaccine. This panel discussion looks at the vaccine from a medical, theological, pastoral and personal perspective.

Watch here

 

External links

UK government for guidance in England

(COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do [ENGLAND]  

COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of places of worship [ENGLAND]  

COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships [ENGLAND]  
This guidance is designed to assist people in planning to get married 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 2020, this includes places of worship and church halls.

Northern Ireland Government

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

Scottish Government

COVID-19: 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.

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.