New national lockdown comes into force
5 Jan 2021
Following Monday's statement by the prime minister, national restrictions are now in place across England.
The current advice is that churches may remain open for communal worship and that Holy Communion may still be administered as long as the latest guidance is followed.
Opening for private prayer is also permitted.
The advice remains that there is no compulsion to open church buildings. Should a church decide that it is better, for pastoral care and mission, to close then this decision will be supported. Because churches are not legally required to close, churches that wish to remain closed or that are not offering Holy Communion, should notify the Bishop of the PCC's resolution to that effect and request specific permission to be exempt from that canonical requirement.
Clergy and PCCs may consider changing their plans in light of recent developments, but do not need to. Any changes that require updates to their risk-assessments should be signed off by the respective archdeacon.
The new national restrictions are clear that there must be no mingling with anyone outside of a household or support bubble when attending a place of worship and that strict social distancing must be maintained at all times. There must be no social mingling before, during or after a service. Given the increased infectivity of the new variant of the Covid-19 virus, incumbents, PCCs and churchwardens should consider what they need to do to encourage the continued wearing of masks as people leave the building and for everyone to disperse immediately outside.
Funerals may still take place with a maximum of 30 people in attendance (this figure does not include those working). Weddings may only take place in exceptional circumstances and with a maximum of 6 people (not including workers).
The Church of England is currently updating all previously issued guidance and this will be made available in the coming days on the dedicated CofE Coronavirus guidance for churches page.
Following the announcement of the government's new restrictions, Bishop Libby said: "I think we were looking to this new year wishing that the introduction of vaccines would speed up our personal, local and national recovery. I expect you share my sense of disappointment and frustration that circumstances have changed again, and we, for good and right reason, are required to ‘Stay home, Save lives, Protect the NHS’.
"We remain hopeful, though. Because our hope is founded, not on the ‘changes and chances’ of life but on Christ himself, the light of the world, the Word made flesh – God with us."
Previous national updates
Clarification on National Restrictions from Thursday, 5 November 2020
10:00 - Sunday, 1 November 2020
Following the announcement yesterday by the Prime Minister that England will be placed under national restrictions from Thursday, 5 November 2020 until Wednesday, 2 December 2020, the UK Government has issued further guidance that includes Places of Worship.
These requirements are expected to come into law from Thursday, 5 November 2020.
Places of Worship will be closed, unless they are being used for:
- Funerals (see additional note below)
- To broadcast acts of worship (with limits on those present)
- Individual prayer (where guidance can be safely followed)
- Formal childcare provision or where part of a school
- Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks
- Other exempted activities such as some support groups.
Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people, and it is advised that only close friends and family attend. Linked ceremonial events such as stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 15 people in attendance. Anyone working is not included. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.
Weddings will not be permitted to take place except in exceptional circumstances.
Further information will be available in the coming days.
New Covid-19 rules
14:30: Thursday, 24 September 2020
On Tuesday, the prime minister announced new measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 and some of the detail of how this will impact on churches and worship has become clear – though not all.
What we DO know so far is that:
- Places of worship may remain open, under Covid-secure rules
- From Monday 28 September, only 15 people will be able to attend weddings. Funerals will be able to take place with up to 30 people attending. In both cases, people must not be part of a group of more than six unless they are from the same household or support bubble.
The Church of England is studying the detailed documents regarding the new restrictions as they become available and is updating its FAQ section accordingly.
New guidance has also been issued on Test and Trace requirements and it is recommended that you make yourself familiar with this.
The CofE Recovery Group has issued updated advice on the conduct of public worship. Version 2.4 incorporates the Government’s ‘rule of six’ introduced on 14 September 2020 limiting gatherings of people, with some exemptions. The salient points, sections 5 and 17, have been updated to include this.
Please continue to check the advice in the CofE FAQs
Holding APCMs and APMs
14:30:Monday, 17 August 2020
The advice from the Legal Department at Church House, Westminster is that APMs and APCMs must now take place on or before 31 October 2020. The deadline for holding them cannot be put back again.
Some parishes will already have received e-mails from the Charity Commission, asking for their approved accounts.
Bishop Libby has signed another Instrument, dated 17 August 2020, which enables parishes, should they wish, to hold their APMs and APCMs remotely.
Please remember that you are not obliged to open your church or church hall for the purpose of these meetings.
Should you wish to do so, your risk assessment mustshow you have sufficient capacity to hold the meetings AND your archdeacon must have signed it off.
Further update on face coverings guidance
10:30: Tuesday, 11 August 2020
The following advice documents, together with relevant FAQs have now been updated on the Church of England Advice page: www.churchofengland.org/coronavirus
This is to take account of the fact that, from 8 August, face coverings are also required by law to be worn in places of worship, but that there will be exemptions for those leading the worship, and the bride and groom at a wedding (see below).
It will be issued in final form only after this guidance is issued.
- Updated Face coverings document
- Updated Baptisms document
- Updated Weddings document
- Updated Funerals document
- Updated Holy Communion document
- Updated Confirmation services document
- Updated Ordinations and Consecrations document
- Updated Conducting public worship document
- Updated Individual private prayer document
- Updated Opening cathedral and church buildings to the public document
- Updated Test and Trace document
- Updated Risk assessment template for reopening church buildings document
Update on face coverings
16:30: Wednesday, 5 August 2020
From 8 August, face coverings are also required by law to be worn in a greater number of public indoor settings including places of worship.
There are valid exemptions for some individuals and groups to not wear a face covering in these settings.
In particular, those who are leading services or events in a place of worship, and those who assist them (for instance by reading, preaching, or leading prayer) do not always need to wear a face covering, although one should be worn especially if physical distancing cannot be maintained (i.e. distributing consumables).
This exemption does not apply to worshippers, who should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space.
Face coverings during weddings
There are valid exemptions for some individuals and groups to not wear a face covering in places of worship. In particular, those who are leading services.
Those exemptions will also cover the bride and groom at a wedding and those officiating/leading the wedding (as long as adequate physical distancing can be maintained).
This exemption does not apply to those observing the wedding, who should wear face coverings consistent with the requirements for any other public space.
The Church of England plans to add this information to its website as an FAQ later today and on social media. It will update all its advice over the next few days.
If the Government has not produced its advice by Friday the CofE will put up revised draft advice for Wearing Face Coverings and the Advice on Holy Communion on Friday, followed by all other updated advice after the Government advice is published.
New rules on face coverings
14:00: Friday, 31 July 2020
People attending places of worship will be among those required by law to wear face coverings, in a change that will be applied from 8 August.
The Church of England will make any necessary changes to its guidance early next week and those details will be available here as soon as possible.
Updated FAQs on CofE website
Updated 09:00: Tuesday, 28 July 2020
The FAQs on the CofE website have been updated with details covering:
- Should we wear a visor for presiding and preaching?
- What can we do about our annual parish meetings?
Advice on face coverings in churches
Updated 16:30: Friday, 2 July 2020
The Church of England strongly advises that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus COVID-19 and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing.
Read the full guidance (on the CofE website)
Can face coverings be removed for Holy Communion?
Yes. See Q2 on the CofE updated Holy Communion document, which says: "The Government guidance for the safe use of places of worship encourages people to wear face coverings in places of worship and other enclosed public spaces. We strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship where there may be other people present. This includes not only members of the congregation but also the president and any other ministers. Face coverings should only be removed to receive Holy Communion."
Also - please note that in light of recent changes to governement advice, the CofE is reviewing ALL its own guidance documents.The latest versions can all be found here.
Bell ringing may resume in churches
Updated 16:30: Friday, 03 July 2020
It has been confirmed that bells can be rung in churches from 4th July, on the condition that ringing is in accordance with the guidance by the CofE and the CCCBR as outlined in the Advice on opening church buildings to the public.
Ringing remains at the express permission of the incumbent.
There is a specific requirement that ringers have read the guidance and undertaken the ringing risk assessment.
Opening churches for public worship
Updated 13:30: Wednesday, 01 July 2020
Churches are allowed to open for public worship, weddings and other services from 4 July - all with restrictions - and detailed advice for parishes and cathedrals is available on the Church of England website.
However, it is important to note that churches should not rush into this process and should not consider opening for worship until the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are in place.
Further information about this will be issued to clergy and church officers in Bishop Libbys Covid update on Friday 3 July
Before a church can open for public worship, a risk assessment must be completed. Where a church has already completed a risk assessment for private prayer, a new risk assessment will need to be done before public worship can take place.
An advisory ‘cap’ of 30 has been set for weddings and other ‘stand-alone’ services such as baptism and confirmation if not conducted during ‘routine communal worship’.
There is no numerical ‘cap’ on other services, but social distancing and Public Health requirements must be met.
Consideration should be given to keeping numbers below the maximum possible to further minimise risk.
Wearing of face-coverings is voluntary.
Government guidance includes a request for names of attendees to be recorded and kept for 21 days to assist ‘track and trace’ if required (further details from the government are expected to help parishes and cathedrals who wish to do this).
Singing, chanting and playing of brass or woodwind instruments are not recommended, but a further update will follow soon.
Detailed instructions on ‘consumables’ suggest that services of Holy Communion can be held if specific guidance is followed, including the continued suspension of the Common Cup (see the guidance document on Holy Communion).
Public worship guidance includes surrounding grounds (including churchyards, car parks and courtyards); meetings in other places should follow other guidance for people meeting in public spaces. Refreshments can only be served at tables if a café is included in the church or cathedral building.
Further Government advice about use of churches and church halls for non-religious activity is expected.
Statement on individual prayer in churches
The Government has now revised the date that churches may open for private prayer to 13 June, and has issued new guidance today (12 June).
Individual prayer within a place of worship is defined as a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act. They should be socially distanced from other individuals or households. Collective or communal prayer and regular scheduled services are not permitted at this time as set out in Regulations. This includes a Minister of Religion or lay person leading devotions or prayer of any sort.
Although the guidance allows for places of worship to reopen, as always the decision of how and when to begin the process of doing so for individual private prayer will be taken locally.
It is not compulsory for churches to open for private prayer and some may not choose to do so until a later date. Churches should only open if they have the resources and safety measures in place and there will be instances where it is simply not feasible or desirable for a church to open for private prayer.
Members of the public are advised to check a church's website or check with the vicar before going to a church to pray.
In the Diocese of Derby, amongst other things, there is a requirement that any church planning to open for private prayer must complete a risk assessment and have it approved by their archdeacon before opening.
Other important points:
- It is permissible for employees, volunteers and contractors to enter a place of worship prior to reopening for the purpose of making preparations so that the building can be used safely. The place of worship must remain closed to the general public during this time.
- Certain groups of people may be at increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, including people who are aged 70 or older, regardless of medical conditions. Individuals who fall within this group are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household. This may mean that some regular volunteers or church officers cannot return to church buildings in any capacity for now.
- Individual prayer within a place of worship is defined as a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act. They should be socially distanced from other individuals or households. Collective or communal prayer and regular scheduled services are not permitted at this time, as set out in the Regulations. This includes a Minister of Religion or lay person leading devotions or prayer of any sort.
- Individual prayer should be carried out such that adherence to social distancing of 2 metres all round can be maintained between individuals or those from separate households. Restrictions should be set locally to limit the number of people permitted to enter the place of worship for individual prayer at any one time, so that a safe distance of at least 2 metres can be maintained.
- No food or drink is to be made available.
- Churches are encouraged to make sanitisers available for visitors to use on entering and leaving the building.
- Activities such as singing and/or playing instruments must be avoided, with the exception of organists, who are able to use buildings for practice with appropriate social distancing.
- Where visitors have the option to light a candle, do not use or provide matches or re-usable tapers. Those wishing to light a candle should ensure their hands are completely dry (so that no alcohol from santisers remains) and light a candle from an existingcandleflame.
Provision for lighting candles should not be available in unattended buildings.
Clergy may continue to stream prayers and virtual services from their church, maintaining the current guidance that only one member of clergy and one other member of their household can enter the church for this purpose. Such recording or streaming of worship must be done when the church buildings are closed for individual prayer.
Advice for parishes
For advice to churches about how to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, please check the information below and the relevant pages on the national Church of England website here: churchofengland.org/coronavirus.
Do bookmark the national C of E page and keep visiting it. The situation is developing, and new advice is being added all the time.
Do read the Q & A section on the national C of E website here for more details, including advice about streaming worship and prayer from home, and other digital resources you can use.
This national Church of England advice about coronavirus is based on guidance from Public Health England and the government recommendations about staying at home.
The Discipleship, Mission and Ministry team is maintaining a page of Ideas and Inspiration for churches and parishes
>> Church open for private prayer poster [Word doc]
>> Church building closed poster [Word doc]
>> Zoom meetings: Guide for attendees [PDF]
One of the options during the coronavirus outbreak is for clergy or ministers to offer liturgy, prayer and teaching from their own homes.
You can read some of the advice about recording video material and live streaming here.
And please see our list of forthcoming live-streams in the diocese.
A number of parishes have asked about the delivery of parish magazines, pew sheets, Palm crosses or Holy Week orders of service to those parishioners who may be housebound or self-isolating. The advice from the national C of E is that door-to-door deliveries do carry a risk of transmitting the virus, as the deliverer may well be touching garden gates, letterboxes and of course the items they are delivering.
The scientific evidence suggests that the virus can remain on cardboard for 24 hours, meaning that letters, leaflets and envelopes will carry a similar risk. Wearing gloves may protect the volunteer deliverer, but could transmit the virus from House A to House B unless they washed between each delivery. And, of course, deliveries of such items are not classed as essential travel by the government.
There is, of course, a desire for churches to keep in touch with those who are housebound or self-isolating who do not have access to digital technology.
Our advice is that pastoral support can be carried out by phone calls. If items do need to be delivered, they can be sent by the Royal Mail, as postal workers have been given training in how to deliver items more safely. It also cuts down on the number of visits to each household. This advice echoes the advice of the national C of E, which you can read under the FAQs here.
Resources to help you pray and worship at home
As you are confined to your home, you may want to engage with some of the spiritual resources that are available online, to help adults, young people and children in your household or your congregation to continue to pray and worship. You can find out more on our Ideas and Inspiration page.
The national Church of England has also put together some liturgy and prayers that can be used at home, which you can find here.
Prayer resources for children
During the Coronavirus lockdown, this page will be the location of “Faith at Home” resources. These are designed to use with children and adults together.