Get the latest information and guidance

Get the latest information and guidance

Places of worship restrictions in England

In February, the Prime Minister annouced the roadmap for easing restrictions put in place during the latest national lockdown. Whilst the first stage for restriction easing on 8th March didn’t see much change for places of worship, the next two stages on this roadmap, 29th March & 12th April, will see changes start to be made that will affect places of worship, and guidance is now starting to be changed to reflect this.
On 12th April, step 2 of the roadmap was implemented. As part of this stage, weddings and civil partnership ceremonies, wakes and wedding receptions and wakes are now limited to 15 people.

The updated guidance for places of worship now reflects changes from 29th March & 12th April, and will be updated further as we reach the next stage of the roadmap.

Is singing allowed?

The move to stage two of the roadmap will see restrictions around singing start to be eased. From 28th March, the day before other restrictions are relaxed, places of worship will be allowed to have small groups of singers perform indoors, only where essential to an act of communal worship and where the group is kept to as few singers as possible, but outdoors, in the grounds or the outdoor space of a place of worship, congregations can join in with singing as long as they adhere to social distancing and gathering rules which restrict people to gathering in their household or support bubble before 29th March,and with up to 6 other people or two households after 29th March.

ActivityCurrent Restrictions as of 12th April
Opening Places of Worship for communal worshipOpen for as many people as can be safely accommodated with social distancing measures
Attending Places of Worship for communal prayerCan interact in groups of up to 6 people or two households
Outdoor acts of worshipOnly allowed when conducted in the grounds of the place of worship. Acts of worship should not take place away from a place of worship or its surrounding grounds. Communal singing can now take place outdoors in the grounds or outdoor space of a place of worship
Broadcasting or filming an act of worshipPermitted, but only those essential for the content of the service or for technical support should be in attendance
Wedding CeremoniesCan take place with up to 15 attendees
Wedding ReceptionsCan take place with up to 15 attendees
FuneralsCan take place with up to 30 attendees
Commemorative events post-deathCan take place with up to 6 attendees
Other Standalone Life-Cycle Ceremonies
that do not take place as a part of communal worship
Cannot take place
Childcare & EducationCan be provided for all children without restriction on the reasons for which they may attend
Essential voluntary and public services

Can remain open to provide services such as food banks, blood donation sessions, to support the homeless or vulnerable people, or to provide support during an emergency, Can also remain open where the place of worship is being used as a vaccination centre

Support Groups

Support Groups that have to be delivered in person can continue for up to 15 people where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support – but they must take place at a premises other than a private home.

The Government Roadmap for easing restrictions

On Monday 22nd February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a roadmap for easing restrictions over the coming months. Restrictions will be eased in stages, with a 5 week gap between each stage to allow measurement of the effects of the previous step, and a set of tests that must be met before moving to the next stage.

The COVID-19 vaccine

Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine on our dedicated page below.

Places of worship and tier restrictions in England

As of Wednesday 2nd December, the national lockdown in England has ended and the country is returning to the Local Restriction, aka Tiers, system. Places of worship are now once again allowed to open for communal worship in all tiers.

However, compared to before the lockdown, some changes have been made to which activities are allowed. Please see the table below for a full breakdown of how restrictions apply to faith-related activities in each tier.

For more information, please see the updated guidance for places of worship.

NOTE: Wherever interaction can take place, social distancing of 1m+ should still be strictly maintained between anyone who doesn’t live together or are in a ‘support bubble’.

Is singing allowed?

Singing that involves the congregation is allowed ONLY if it takes place outdoors. Social distancing and any relevant principles laid out in the guidance for the performing arts must also be observed.

Activity Medium (Tier 1) High (Tier 2) Very High (Tier 3)
Opening Places of Worship for communal worship Open for as many people as can be safely accommodated with social distancing measures
Attending Places of Worship for communal prayer Can attend and interact in groups of up to 6 people from different households Can only interact indoors with your own households, but outdoors can interact in groups of up to 6 Can only interact with your own household both indoors and outdoors
Wedding Ceremonies Can take place with up to 15 attendees, all of whom can interact.
Wedding Receptions Can take place with up to 15 attendees, all of whom can interact Can take place with up to 15 attendees, all of whom can interact Cannot take place
Funerals Can take place with up to 30 attendees, all of whom can interact
Commemorative events post-death Can take place with up to 15 attendees, all of whom can interact
Other Standalone Life-Cycle Ceremonies
that do not take place as a part of communal worship
Can attend and interact in groups of up to 6 people from different households Can only interact indoors with your own households, but outdoors can interact in groups of up to 6 Can only interact with your own household both indoors and outdoors
Supervised Activities for Children
(including Sunday schools, madrassas etc.)
Can take place with no limit on the number of children permitted to attend, following COVID-Secure guidance. Adults must ensure social distancing at all times.

Local COVID Alert Levels - Key Messages for Community Leaders

On 12th October 2020, the government announced a new system to help simplify and standardise local rules around COVID. The three tiered system has been implemented across the country, setting out clear rules on what people are expected to do to keep themselves safe. A number of places have been placed in the high or very high alert level, with more expected to follow. To help community leaders explain this new system to those communities in the high or very high alert level tiers, the Cabinet Office have produced a series of resources outlining the rules in each area, when they go into force and suggestions for ways to help spread the message to the local community.

The Cabinet Office have also issued an Influencer Toolkit for community leaders across the country containing key messages the government wants to promote.

NHS Test and Trace app

The new COVID-19 app by NHS Test and Trace is now available. This app is the fatest way of knowing when you’re at risk of coronavirus.

  • Find out when you’ve been near other app users who have tested positive for coronavirus
  • Keep track of infection levels in your area
  • Check in with venues and get alerted if other visitors have tested positive for coronavirus
  • Check if you have coronavirus symptoms and order a test online
  • Keep track of your self-isolation period and get relevant advice

If you are holding services or other events in a venue, including a place of worship, you can display a QR code to allow visitors to quickly check-in using the COVID-19 app and help trace and stop the spread of coronavirus.

If you would like to help spread the word about the app and how it works in your community, there are a number of informative posters and other resources available on the official website. Versions of the resources translated into 11 different languages are also available.

Celebrating Religious Festivals During COVID-19

The Government has released a checklist covering key principles from the COVID-19 guidance to help religious communities celebrate their religious festivals in a safe way

Reopening of places of worship

The Government’s new guidance for places of worship in England came into effect from Saturday 4th July.

Updates to the guidance

On Monday 14th September, new regulations came into force limiting the number of people who could meet together socially either inside or outside to no more than 6 people, unless those people are part of your household or support bubble.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have recently updated the guidance regarding what this means for places of worship. For most, this new ‘rule of 6’ will not significantly impact their communal worship.

Places of worship will continue to be allowed attendance of more than 30 people for communal worship services, with the limit continuing to be the number of people a venue can hold with adequate social distancing.

There can be more than 6 people undertaking communal worship, prayer or study, or informal support groups within a COVID-secure venue, provided that people remain adequately socially distanced and do not mingle outside of a group of 6 people.

Weddings, funerals and other life cycle events continue to be capped at 30 people.

However, people should not socially interact other than in a group of 6 people. Unless part of the same household or support bubble, these groups of 6 will still need to remain social distanced from each other. Groups of 6 can arrive and leave a place of worship together, but should not socially interact with anyone outside this group, and should limit their social contact between each other within the place of worship. Groups are still expected to leave their place of worship as quickly as possible.

For groups who hire venues for their worship, the guidance is the same as for other places of worship. Communal worship within these spaces can continue to have more than 30 people attend, as long as social distancing can be maintained.

Services held in private residences or gardens are NOT covered by the above exceptions and must continue to follow the ‘rule of 6’ at all times.

Professional choirs can continue to perform as before, as they are counted as working and therefore are exempt from the ‘rule of 6’. However, amateur choirs at the moment are capped at 6, but there will be further guidance on this issued shortly.

For further clarification, please see these Frequently Asked Questions.

On Friday 21st August, the government released new guidance relating to full immersion baptism. This new guidance sets out a number of rules for officiants and participants to follow when performing baptisms by immersion:

  • Those being immersed should be at least two metres away from the congregation except when they are being immersed.
  • Only one person should be immersed at a time, and they should only be attended by one officiant.
  • During the immersion, the officiant should not cradle the person being immersed or touch them in any way other than on the head.
  • Officiants should wash their hands after each person is immersed, or if this is not possible, hand sanitiser should be used.

As of Saturday 15th August, small groups of professional or non-professional singers will be able to sing in front of worshippers, both indoors and outdoors. However, there should still be no participation by worshippers. Brass and wind instruments can now also be played as part of a worship band. Any instruments that are played should be thoroughly cleaned before and after use.

On 4th August, the guidance was updated to reflect the additional requirements on face coverings in line with the Prime Minister’s statement from 31st July. As of 8th August, face coverings must be worn in a number of enclosed spaces including places of worship. Those leading services, or those assisting (including preaching, leading prayers or reading) are exempt.

On July 17th, the guidance was updated to clarify points relating to outdoor worship and face coverings.

  • Outdoor worship in public spaces is not illegal providing it involves less than 30 people and observes social distancing regulations.
  • Public gatherings of over 30 are only allowed if arranged by a business, charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, public body or political body, who have carried out a risk assessment and implemented ways to minimize transmission. Places of worship may be considered a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, but are responsible for ensuring they qualify.
  • Gatherings of over 30 in a public space require agreement with the body that manages that space and measures, including risk assessments, must be in place to ensure the event is as safe as possible.

On July 10th, the guidance was updated to allow small groups of professional singers may perform outdoors in front of an audience. All other forms of groups singing are still discouraged. (Relevant section)

MHCLG have produced a helpful poster to be placed outside of places of worship, containing the key advice necessary to keep your congregation safe once you begin to reopen.

We’re also collecting good practice released by faith groups, representative bodies, and supporting organisations.

Know something we don’t? Let us know by emailing [email protected]!

General guidance regarding coronavirus

At FaithAction, we’ve been collating together all the information, advice and guidance from across the sector and beyond about this pandemic that is of interest to faith groups and communities.

This includes guidance specifically related to faith and its practices, plus guidance covering wider issues, from mental health to bereavement.

Reporting of coronavirus regulation breaches

If you believe that there has been a serious breach of coronavirus regulations, you may report an incident to your local police force.

While you may always call 101 for non-urgent police matters, many forces are urging people to instead use online reporting methods where possible due to the increased pressures of the pandemic.

We’ve put together a list of links to these online reporting tools, where available.