COVID-19 Latest Information for Churches
This webpage provides COVID-19 information relevant to the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the North of England as we seek to create healthy, safe and connected churches during these turbulent times.
Frequently Asked Questions (Published 29th March 2022)
1. How can church activities (e.g. Sabbath worship, bible studies and community outreach) be kept COVID-19 safe?
The risk assessment is a valuable checklist for all COVID-19 safety measures whilst also protecting against liability. Church activities should always follow due diligence and reflect the duty of care towards our elderly and vulnerable members and visitors. Basic safety measures are encouraged, such as voluntarily wearing a face covering, sanitising hands, and respecting personal space. As we are moving slowly into a phase where we will have to accept COVID-19 as part of our lives, our services should show respect, safety awareness, not discriminate against our vulnerable members but make it possible for them to attend safely.
2. How should pastoral work be carried out?
There is no legal requirement to work from home; pastoral and church staff have been asked to return to their workplace. Basic safety measures are encouraged (such as voluntarily wearing a face covering, sanitising hands and respecting personal space). When visiting church members at home, it is recommended to call ahead and carry it out with the utmost care under the same safety measures out of respect for the visited person. Visiting pastors and members are encouraged to carry masks and hand sanitiser with them. If possible, outdoor visits are preferred, and indoor visits are advised to be carried out with social distancing and ventilation measures.
Please identify members in need – the vulnerable and elderly – who may not be able to attend in person for the time being. Designate elders and deacons to check on them regularly, to ensure they are still part of the church family and do not feel abandoned. As times continue to be troubled, provide support by counselling, encouraging, and pastoral care using (but not limited to) phone calls, Skype, and Zoom. We must care for our congregation's mental health.
Lastly, plan and be prepared to evangelise to the vulnerable or shielding individuals, people with special needs, and the elderly in a special way. Do not exclude them from outreach, inreach, or evangelistic programmes.
3. What should happen if someone becomes ill (or suspects they are ill) from Coronavirus?
Get in touch with 111 and do not attend any physical church while unwell.
4. What should happen if you think you caught the infection at church?
Please inform the pastor or elders of the church, who will keep a register of attendees and inform test and trace.
5. How can churches help the community during this time?
Continue Community Services activities under the basic safety measures (such as voluntarily wearing a face covering, sanitising hands and respecting personal space). Additionally, signpost to mental health programmes or run health and mental health programmes in your local community as part of your outreach plans.
6. Will hybrid worship services still be available, and will elderly or vulnerable members have to possibility to watch online?
A hybrid approach has proved to ensure that all can watch the service. It is a valuable tool, especially for those who cannot attend. However, encourage everybody to attend a church, where possible. Our services must be inclusive, encourage human contact and show respect to the vulnerable or disabled. To enable all to attend, please adhere to the basic safety measures (such as voluntarily wearing a face covering, sanitising hands and respecting personal space).
7. Are COVID-19 passes required?
COVID-19 passes are not required, and nobody will ask for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test upon entry into church premises. As of 1st April 2022, COVID-19 testing will not be available for free; however, tests are still recommended when symptomatic. As a preventative measure to avoid severe illness and hospitalisation, the Adventist Church recommends that all those who are eligible get a COVID-19 vaccine and booster jab.
COVID-19 Vaccines and Face Coverings (Published 19 January 2022)
Vaccinations against infectious diseases, including COVID-19
The North England Conference (NEC) of the Seventh Day Adventist Church position is for preventing diseases if possible and therefore is for vaccination. We advise all eligible church members to get vaccinated against communicable diseases, including but not limited to measles, mumps, rubella, COVID-19, flu, human papillomavirus, meningococcal meningitis, pneumonia (including yellow fever, TB, hepatitis and chickenpox in some instances).
Consequently, the position of the NEC is for all eligible church members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as per government and public health guidelines unless there is a specific reasonable medical reason not to do so. We also find no biblical reason against vaccination. There is, therefore, no religious exemption for vaccination. We advise Adventist members who have questions about whether their personal medical condition/s preclude them from receiving COVID-19 vaccination to check with their GPs, local public health or their hospital doctor/specialist. Your healthcare professional will discuss with you which vaccine is recommended for you. Alternatively, members may check for contraindications to the COVID-19 vaccination by clicking here.
Comprehensive statements concerning COVID-19 and immunisation have also been issued by our Seventh-day Adventist World Church headquarters and can be found on their Health Ministries department Coronavirus Pandemic webpage. The Trans-European Division (TED) hosted a recent COVID-19 Symposium in which they provided presentations from the General Conference departments of Health Ministries, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty as well as Loma Linda University
Face masks/facial coverings
From 27 January 2022, there is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering. The government suggests that you continue to wear a face-covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not usually meet. This advice includes all church organised indoor settings such as conferences and meetings, irrespective of whether the Adventist church owns the premises. All NEC staff/church workers/Pastors are advised to wear face coverings in all indoor places of work when they are in an area that is open to others and when they are likely to come into close contact with members of the public, or vulnerable or unvaccinated individuals.
We pray for insight and divine guidance, and urge everyone to act kindly and respect each other’s personal choices. May we make wise decisions as His Spirit leads us.
Revised Government Guidelines (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 NEC changes from Monday 19 July 2021
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.
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.