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.


On Monday 19 October, the Welsh Government announced a “firebreak” for the whole of Wales from 6.00 pm on Friday 23 October to 12.01am on Monday 9 November.

Places of Worship must close for corporate worship and individual prayer for the whole of this period, which means for the three Sundays – 25 October, 1 and 8 November 2020. All other activities which may have started since July 2020 must also stop, including youth work, small groups etc. Charitable community activities such as Foodbank can continue, as happened during the national lockdown earlier this year.


On 12 October the government introduced a system of local COVID alert levels for England. If you live, work or volunteer in an area that is part of local COVID alert level: high or local COVID alert level: very high, there are additional restrictions which apply to you.

In general, these additional restrictions do not have significant implications for Places of Worship. Where they do, they have been included in the guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic.

In areas subject to “COVID alert level – medium” restrictions, when meeting friends and family you do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) you must not meet in a group of more than 6, indoors or outdoors.

In areas subject to “COVID alert level – high” restrictions, you must not mix outside of your household or support bubble indoors, including within a place of worship.

In areas subject to “COVID alert level – very high” restrictions, you must not mix outside of your household or support bubble indoors, including within a place of worship, or outdoors.

Please visit the local COVID alert levels page to find out what level your area is in and the additional restrictions that apply.

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.

The COVID-19 guidance for places of worship in England on the government website includes a usefully summary of the current position and can be viewed here.

Last updated: 20 October 2020 10:00am 


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.

  • 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.

  • Singing is considered as posing a particular risk, and therefore there should be no congregational singing in churches.

  • 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 on which tier the local authority where the church is meeting is in.

  • People attending places of worship should only socially interact as is permitted indoors - in England Tier 1 areas, a maximum of six people, in other Tiers no one outside their household.

  • People attending church services should be discouraged from gathering before and after the service.

  • All meetings at home or in public places are not covered by the more permissive exemptions for places of worship and are subject to the general limits for meeting other people.

  • Weddings can take place with a maximum of 15 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. This risk should be assessed and itemised on your risk assessment.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • A “firebreak” for the whole of Wales is effective from 6.00 pm on Friday 23 October to 12.01am on Monday 9 November.
  • Places of Worship must close for corporate worship and individual prayer for the whole of this period, which means for the three Sundays – 25 October, 1 and 8 November 2020.
  • All other activities which may have started since July 2020 must also stop, including youth work, small groups etc.
  • Charitable community activities such as Foodbank can continue, as happened during the national lockdown earlier this year.
  • Ministers will be able to “access the building to broadcast (without a congregation) an act of worship.” It is our understanding, confirmed by the Evangelical Alliance, that this does mean the minister/pastor/church leader and NOT a team of people.
  • Weddings and funeral ceremonies can take place as planned but you should even more careful to ensure that you take all of the measures expected.
  • 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.

Churches must abide by the relevant social distancing requirements between households and people attending church services should be discouraged from gathering before and after the service.

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 the maximum has reduced to 15 people 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.

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

For churches in England and ales, it is strongly recommended that churches register for the NHS test and trace app and encourage all who enter the building to check in. Where this is not possible for the church or attendees, a local system may be used.

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: Coronavirus firebreak: frequently asked questions [WALES]  
This guidance is about rules that will come into force at 6:00pm on Friday 23 October.

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.