Coronavirus (advice for churches)


First published on: 17th March 2020

LATEST UPDATES: The information below was amended on 24 September 2020.

In light of the current coronavirus pandemic we will endeavour to keep you up-to-date with the latest advice for churches and parishes. We are asking all church ministers to regularly check these web pages, which we will try to update regularly, as well as the continuously updated advice and 'frequently asked questions' (FAQs) on the national Church of England web pages here. You can see what the latest updates are by linking to the Version Log at the very bottom of that page.

Bishops Martyn and Guli, and our Archdeacons, as well as the diocesan Mission and Ministry team, are  supporting our clergy and lay leaders in prayer and practical matters, just as they are doing for their parishioners and communities. We have been sharing a new video message from Bishop Martyn here every week throughout lockdown, as well as on our Facebook, Twitter and Youtube channels. Below is his final weekly message of the summer.

 

Click here to see all of Bishop Martyn's weekly videos during the pandemic.

With rapidly changing advice and information on the opening of church buildings for private prayer, here is a document with guidance for controlling the risks in your places of worship and buildings. There is also a risk assessment form here and guidance for completing the risk assessment here.

Test and Trace

This guidance was issued by the Church of England on 23 September. The main elements : 

Track and Trace in the paper based form as per previous Church of England Guidance is what should be in place as part of your ‘covid-safe’ processes. The placing of the QR codes on church buildings is part of the mobile app provision that the Government is pursuing as part of the longer term aim, and is strongly recommended (except for church halls where it is mandatory). 

Places of worship are not covered in legislation requiring use of the NHS Test & Trace service (except where they offer certain facilities such as a café, or are open as a tourist destination in which it is mandatory). However, along with other venues where people spend time, churches are strongly encouraged to keep a record of those who have attended to facilitate NHS Test and Trace in the event of an outbreak of coronavirus. Participating in Test & Trace will help to slow the spread of Covid-19. We encourage you to read the CofE guidance notes, as they also provide guidance on the variations such as ‘hospitality coffee shops’ and also data privacy notices.

Parish buying are offering to supply a service for the QR for those churches who wish to or must use it (eg where they offer certain facilities such as a café, or are open as a tourist destination). 

Guidance from the recent 'Rule of Six' announcement:

The Government announced new regulations relating to the ‘Rule of Six’ which came into effect on Monday 14 September 2020. On 17 September 2020 the Church of England issued new guidance relating to those regulations for churches. Click here to download the new guidance and some additional updates as of Friday evening 18 September here.

The Government document regarding the mandatory Rule of Six is helpful in ensuring that socialising whilst distancing is followed. Area Deans have been emailed a supplementary document (sent 23 September) which can be displayed or referred to as part of each member’s continuing care for one another as we seek to meet with others safely.  There are some helpful elements about meeting others safely in this document.

These FAQs from the Minister of Faiths, Community and Local Government on 18 September. There is also some guidance for youth groups here.

PCC meetings and APCMs:

An Instrument has been issued by the Bishop of Leicester which provides for APCMs to be held this year either exclusively by electronic means or to enable virtual attendance at an APCM held as an in-person meeting. There is also a Guidance Note, provided by the Diocesan Registrar, which sets the context for this permission, and gives particular guidance on how to deal with voting.  The date by which APCMs have to take place remains 31st October 2020. If, having read the attached information, you have particular questions or concerns, please do direct them as usual to Andy Brockbank (note new email address Andy.Brockbank@LeicesterCofE.org ), the Archdeacons Office or the Diocesan Registrar’s Office as appropriate.

Remembrance Events/services 

a. The Royal British Legion will not be co-ordinating the usual Remembrance services. They are providing an alternative of a broadcast service. 

b. Permission to hold worship services outdoors is currently noted in the Church of England guidance

c. However, various constraints apply depending on whether the service is within the curtilage of the church or whether it is to be held outside of this. Guidance is clarified in those notes.

d. However, there is also an element which speaks to our need to consider risks, and in this case the drawing in of ‘people’ in large unpredictable numbers which would contravene the Government guidance. This is amplified by a reference to the local police/councils. 

e. There is also the realisation that with the ebb and flow of covid, the guidance concerning any gatherings may change, and managing expectations might be helpful. A plan B might be useful, as mentioned in the meeting, such as displaying poppies in the window, prayer liturgy etc. 

Current guidance from the Church of England has been updated to take account of the most recent Government restrictions:

For those churches that are not yet ready or able to re-open there is guidance on a simple resolution the PCC can pass in order to allow the building to remain closed for longer (see  the legal considerations link below). Our Bishops have been very clear in setting out that where it is not safe or possible to re-open a church, it is perfectly acceptable not to. Every church situation is different. The national advice now also makes that clear and provides more information for clergy, lay leaders and PCCs. 

Updated guidance on singing: Government guidance has changed in relation to small choirs in places of worship including churches. Latest national guidelines allow for small set choir groups to sing, so long as they socially distance from the congregation and each other, and the congregation doesn’t join in the singing (see below, however, in relation to the Leicester lockdown area). Church of England guidance responding to this can be found in this document (item 17). This and all other updated guidance can be found on the national Church of England guidance web pages here.   

In relation to the Leicester lockdown area, the Government announcement of 18 August concerning the relaxation of restrictions in Leicester will shortly lead to revised Government regulatory guidance on the Leicester lockdown guidance page (found here); this may continue to prevent ‘indoor performance’ and mean that group singing should not yet resume in churches in the Leicester lockdown area.  

Recent updates include advice on the conduct of public worship (including details on use of microphones), updated risk assessmentlegal considerations and advice on opening church buildings to the public as well as guidance regarding the wearing of face coverings in churches. Click here to read more about use of masks.

Re-opening Church Buildings: In case it helps, there is a new flowchart to help churches plan their re-opening (this is an optional resource for use by those who find it helpful) as well as additional information on funerals and other activities here. There is also more detail there on several related topics including how to manage an outbreak of Coronavirus in the 'Re-opening Church Buildings' section of the Support for Clergy and Leaders web page here.

There are new (free of charge) Coronavirus posters and sign resources to download and print for your church here.

Safeguarding: The NSPCC has created a new webpage with information and advice for parents or carers who are worried a child or young person may be struggling with their mental health or has anxiety about coronavirus. The webpage includes information on: talking about feelings and worries; keeping in touch and balancing screen time; ways to create structure and routine; and helping to give children a sense of control. Read the information and advice: Talking to a child worried about coronavirus (COVID-19). Futher vital information about safeguarding can be found here. Please also see our Frequently Asked Questions below.

Domestic Abuse: We know that for those experiencing domestic abuse, self isolating at home presents additional dangers. Women’s Aid have provided some specific safety advice.

Wellbeing of clergy and other church leaders/employees.   We give thanks for all the pastoral care and support being offered in parishes throughout the diocese to those particularly affected by the pandemic. We also recognise that clergy and church leaders/employees are themselves affected in different ways, so here is a link to some wellbeing resources and materials specifically for clergy and church leaders/employees.

A number of churches have contacted us looking for clarity on the legal regulations around streaming servicesHere's the guidance (see Livestreaming topics in the FAQ's 'Prayer and Worship' section) given by the Church of England's national Digital Team.

Everybody Welcome Online: Here’s some really useful analysis and reflection on how churches have been using streaming, social media and other new technologies over the last few weeks. While we’re aware that not all churches have the resources (or broadband coverage!) to do “virtual” church, these are some detailed early observations which many will find useful, and includes suggestions on how to make online church as welcoming and visitor-friendly as possible. A further two documents have now been released, one update building on the original, and one looking to the future.

If your church uses Zoom, please see these updated guidelines and accompanying consent form which include information on obtaining permissions and safeguarding implications (with some particular reference to those under the age of 16) for Zoom meetings and gatherings:

To see news stories from our churches, fresh expressions of Church, chaplaincies and schools around the diocese during lockdown, click here.

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