COVID-19 Latest Information for Churches
(Published 12 August 2021)
On Monday 19 July 2021 the government provided revised guidance following the Prime Minister's announcement that Step 4 on the roadmap to recovery would be taken – details of which are available here. The government has, however, issued important caution regarding how to stay safe and prevent the spread:
Although most legal restrictions have been lifted at step 4, and many people have been vaccinated, it is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated, and we are still in the third wave of this pandemic in the UK.
COVID-19 will be a feature of our lives for the foreseeable future, so we need to learn to live with it and manage the risk to ourselves and others.
As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, it is important that we all use personal judgement to manage our own risk. All of us can play our part by exercising common sense and considering the risks. While no situation is risk free, there are actions we can take to protect ourselves and others around us.
In keeping with this, the North-England Conference (NEC) is now permitting the re-opening of churches within its territory for face-to-face, communal worship subject to meeting the guidelines outlined below.
Summary of changes from Monday 19 July (Step 4)
From 19 July, the rules for places of worship changed. At Step 4:
- There are no longer limits on the number of people you can meet. This means there are no restrictions on group sizes for attending communal worship.
- Legal requirements for social distancing will no longer apply and you will not need to stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with. Please note, however, the NEC are encouraging a degree of social distancing measures are maintained (see below).
- There are no legal restrictions on the number of people that can attend a place of worship, including private baptisms, weddings and funerals.
- Face coverings are no longer required by law in any setting. However, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas. Churches should consider whether this applies.
- COVID-secure rules, including table service requirements and restrictions on singing will no longer apply. However, there are steps everyone should continue to consider to reduce the risk of transmission. Places of worship should follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance.
- There will no longer be limits on the number of people who can sing indoors or outdoors. This includes indoor congregational and communal singing.
Summary of NEC changes from Monday 19 July
Whilst we will of course adhere to the Governments guidelines, which allow for churches to reopen for face-to-face, communal worship, we do still have to consider the health and wellbeing of all of the NEC Church family. This is a position which is mirrored by several organisations amidst evidence that there are still ongoing risks.
Places of worship still represent environments where transmission could take place. We will therefore still require that churches submit a risk assessment before opening for face-to-face, communal worship. This is a mandatory requirement.
Many churches have already submitted risk assessments which have been approved and these churches can continue their plans to re-open providing approval from the NEC has been obtained. For those churches who have not submitted a risk assessment as yet, we are asking that the church is not opened until a risk assessment has been completed and approved.
A copy of the latest NEC Risk Assessment template and accompanying Reopening Church Buildings Checklist to guide completion are available in the Useful Information section on this page.
As a result of the continuing risks presented, we also strongly recommend that congregants:
- strive to keep a distance of at least 1 meter (for those not from the same household) to help limit the spread of COVID19; and
- avoid / limit spending time in crowded places or in groups where possible.
Additional Considerations for Churches
Stay at home if you have COVID-19 symptoms
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, the government advises that you self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test, even if your symptoms are mild. You should self-isolate at home while you book the test and wait for the results. You must self-isolate if you test positive.
Be aware of those who are vulnerable
The government is advising those who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to follow the same guidance as everyone else. As part of an inclusive Conference, however, those in this situation should be considered, and their specific needs accommodated where possible.
Alongside formal PCR testing for COVID-19, there are now rapid lateral flow tests, which are available free to anybody and can provide instant results and are self-administered. If churches are working with particularly vulnerable individuals or groups, particularly through pastoral work in people’s homes, this is will help manage that risk. Packs of these tests can be ordered online, more information is here - Regular rapid lateral flow coronavirus (COVID-19) tests - NHS (www.nhs.uk).
NHS Test and Trace
It is no longer a legal requirement for churches to collect and keep records of contact details of building users. However, churches are still encouraged to support the NHS Test and Trace system through display of a QR code or alternative means of collecting and securely storing details.
We are committed to keeping the position of the re-opening of NEC churches under constant review and will use this webpage to provide updates and any new versions of the risk assessment template. Website updates will of course also be supported by communication to churches in writing and using our social media platforms.
We continue to encourage everyone to continue to familiarise themselves with the developing government guidance, including advice that may pertain to local issues such as the transmission of new variants. Please be mindful to only follow official information sources circulated from government or NEC announcements. If in doubt, ask questions before acting on the information shared.
Should you have any questions or points of clarification, please do not hesitate to contact Yvonne Chambers, Administrative Secretary at: firstname.lastname@example.org, who will direct your enquiry to the NEC COVID-19 Committee in order to obtain a response as quickly as possible for you.
Thank you for your continued, committed work in this important matter to enable the preaching of the gospel to our family, community, colleagues, and church congregations.