Churches can remain open in National Lockdown in England
Last updated 22 January 2021
Under the severe new restrictions, with Tier 4 now throughout mainland England, it might seem that we have returned to March 2020. However, there is one difference — communal worship can remain open, with attending worship considered a legitimate reason for leaving home.
A number of CTE’s national Member Churches are however encouraging their churches to remain closed during this time, as an extra precaution.
For those churches remaining open, the place of worship must be Covid-secure, with sanitiser available, masks worn throughout and worshippers remaining in their seats rather than mingling with other household bubbles. Particular attention should be paid to arrangements for entering the place of worship, and especially the departure of those attending at the close of worship, and avoiding breaching social distancing of 2 metres. Singing by the congregation is still not permissible, as this is a particular risk in spreading the virus by aerosol dispersion, and attendees should be seated at least 2 metres apart in every direction in their household bubbles. Buildings should be as well ventilated as possible.
The arrangements that have been in place since last July and updated at the beginning of December 2020 remain largely unchanged, with small groups for prayer or bible study not permitted to gather in person (although many churches have successfully moved these on-line.)
Guidance from the UK Government can be found here with every part of England now under Tier 4 guidance found within the document.
The evidence suggests that transmission of the Sars-Covid-19 virus in places of worship has been very small, although evidence for the more-easily transmissible new variant of the virus is limited. Therefore, while the fact that churches can remain open in England supports the relative safety of communal worship, every effort to minimise the possibility of transmission should continue to be made.
Weddings and Funerals
Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals are allowed with strict limits on attendance, and must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances.
Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. Linked religious, belief-based or commemorative events, such as stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 6 people in attendance. Anyone working is not counted in these limits. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included. These should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.
Government guidance on weddings and funerals is found here