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Get the latest information and guidance

Get the latest information and guidance

National Lockdown - Rules for Places of Worship

From Thursday 5th November, England enters it’s second National Lockdown for the next 28 days until Wednesday 2nd December. From this date, places of worship should close except for certain permitted uses.

Places of worship are to close for regular communal worship. However, unlike the first lockdown, places of worship can remain open for the following reasons: 

  • Individual prayer, which must not be led by an officiant
  • conducting funerals, which a maximum of 30 people can attend
  • for commemorative events celebrating the life of a person who has died, including stone setting and scattering of ashes
  • to broadcast or record an act of worship. The number of people in the place of worship should be limited to those essential for the broadcast or recording, including the officiant, any technical support or musicians or singers who would take part in a normal act of worship.
  • to provide essential voluntary or urgent public support services, including food banks and blood donation sessions
  • to provide childcare by a person registered under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006
  • to provide support groups where there is a need for the group to meet in person. Examples include addiction support, support for new parents, victims of crime and those suffering bereavement

Weddings and other life cycle events are not to take place for the duration of the lockdown, with an exception made for weddings and civil partnership ceremonies where one of the participants is seriously ill and not expected to recover.

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.

Jewish High Holy Day services and gatherings

The Government has released a checklist covering key principles from the COVID-19 guidance to help Jewish communities carry out services and gatherings in a safe manner.

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.