The Government in England introduced on 12 October the new tier levels, with local Covid-alert levels at medium, high and very high. In all levels places of worship can still be used for worship meetings and other types of gatherings as set out below:
- Communal Worship – Limits on the numbers attending communal worship will depend on the capacity of the place of worship and an appropriate risk assessment being carried out. With medium level alert areas people must not mingle in a group of more than six (other than those they live with or have formed a support bubble with). In high or very high alert level areas people must not mingle with anyone they do not live with or have formed a support bubble with.
- Marriage Ceremonies – These are now limited to 15 people, plus those that are working (i.e. the person conducting the ceremony). Attendees should socially distance from anyone they do not live with (unless they are in their support bubble).
- Funerals – The limit is still 30 people, plus those that are working, with the same restrictions as with weddings. It is also possible to hold commemorative events, such as a wake or memorial service, providing no more than 15 people are in attendance (plus those working) and gatherings should not take place in private gardens or houses.
- Support Groups – If support groups are organised by a charity, up to 15 people are allowed to meet in a public space, which can include your church building. This is allowed in all tiers.
- Small Prayer and Study Groups – These would work on the same basis as communal worship within a place of worship or the grounds of a place of worship.
- Full Immersion Baptism – There is guidance now to allow the full immersion baptism, but the person being baptised needs to be at least 2 metres away from the congregation. Only one person should be baptised at any one time with one person attending to them. The person helping can place their hands on the head of the person being baptised, but should not “cradle” the person or touch them in any other way and should wash their hands after each person is baptised or use a hand sanitiser.
In Wales from 23 October to 9 November places of worship have been closed for any gatherings other than funerals and weddings. Up to 30 people (plus those working) can attend funerals and weddings, providing there is adequate space (inside and outside), but wakes or memorial services are not permitted.
A revised version of the paper “Coming out of Covid-19 – opening up church buildings for worship” is available on our website.