The government issued new guidance for places of worship this morning. You can find that at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic
In particular this reminds us that:
‘The following activities are examples of what is not currently permitted (not an exhaustive list) within a place of worship. It is encouraged that services continue to take place online wherever possible.
Further information will be given in due course on these activities:
- communal or corporate worship (led devotions/worship/service/prayer by a Minister of Religion or lay person, e.g. Evensong, informal prayer meetings, Jummah, Mass or Kirtan)
- services other than funerals, e.g. baptisms or coming of age ceremonies
- study groups, and out of school settings, including faith supplementary schools such as Sunday schools, madrassas or yeshivas
- lifestyle and leisure/recreational groups such as craft groups or exercise groups
- meetings including practices such as choir practice or bell ringing
- tourism: buildings should remain closed for tourism purposes’
You can however open for private prayer, but Moderator Jacky Embrey urges caution (June 11).
To open or not to open and when and how? These are and will be the questions, along with many more. Please do not be rushed into anything. Most of our church buildings have not generally been open for private prayer in the past, so you need a good reason to open them for private prayer now. (That might be local demand by the community or the congregation.) You can only open if you are properly prepared and have the have willing people to help. No one should be pressured to do anything which they are not comfortable with at any point, as we open up again. Churches can now open but only for private prayer, not for services of any sort, including weddings or funerals. This may change at any time, but you should only take further steps when you are ready to do so.
Each church needs to make its own decisions, through the eldership, because each situation is different. Some churches have already decided not to open until at least September, others are waiting to see how things go as the lockdown eases. The URC has issued a statement to help with making decisions about opening for private prayer that can be found here. For a fuller discussion on opening see the Ready for the New “Normal” document, which can be found here. The Synod Team are here to work through this with you.
Check out our risk assessment page if you are considering it.