The Diocese of Oxford has circulated the following update on the latest position in relation to COVID-19 and places of worship, which we reproduce with permission.
16 June: Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest
Our churches are beginning to reopen for individual private prayer. Please do not feel under pressure to reopen before you are ready to do so. The national Church guidance states; ‘Places of worship still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open and may decide to remain closed or reopen at a slower pace if they wish’.
This email includes links to new and revised guidance from the government and the national church. Details are yet to emerge from the government concerning weddings; see the latest Church of England statement about weddings here.
What is now allowed?
- Churches may open for individual, private prayer.
- Clergy may now conduct funerals inside church buildings.
- Livestreaming / recording of an act of worship within the church building.
- Provision of essential voluntary services, such as a foodbank.
- Early years childcare by registered providers.
- Organ practice and maintenance, with permission of the incumbent or warden.
- Church grounds open for visitors, grounds and buildings maintenance.
- Clergy, employees, volunteers and contractors may enter the church to clean prepare the building ahead of opening for the activities summarised above. A risk assessment (linked below) should be completed beforehand.
What is not presently allowed?
- Almost every other aspect of ministry and church outreach is limited by the pandemic. This includes congregational worship, baptisms (excluding emergency baptisms), weddings and singing, and informal children and youth groups. Hospitality such as food and drink provided within the church is not allowed. The government guidance below provides further details.
- The government published Guidance for the safe use of places of worship on 12 June. We strongly recommend reading the document in full.
- We understand that the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, alongside Public Health England are working on new guidance for church halls and similar venues, we will share this as soon as it is available.
New and revised Church guidance
- Risk assessment for opening churches (updated 12 June)
see also ‘Keeping church buildings clean’, linked below.
- Advice on individual prayer (updated 12 June)
- Using church buildings for individual private prayer and funerals (updated 12 June)
Unchanged guidance and planning documents
- Advice for conducting funerals
- Guidance on permissions for temporary works in churches
this provides guidance and permission for temporary changes needed to reopen church buildings. Please note that further information will be provided in the coming days.
- Keeping church buildings clean
- Advice on ordinations
ordinations in the Diocese of Oxford will take place at Michaelmas, look out for further details in due course
- Administration of Holy Communion
guidance applicable only once our church buildings are reopened for public worship.
- Advice for conducting baptisms (other than emergency baptisms, not yet allowed by the government)
- Advice for conducting weddings (not yet allowed by the government)
- Re-entering our church buildings
- Prayers of Lament, Thanksgiving and Restoration
- Remembering and memorials
The update comments that the documents and links provided are to help parishes plan for what can be achieved and is appropriate to the local context. There is no expectation from the Diocese that churches will reopen at the same time or in the same way. Technical questions or concerns should be directed to the archdeaconry office.
The Oxford Diocese automatically sends these C-19 guidance notes to all licensed clergy, wardens, lay chairs and also those who have opted in for C-19 updates. A complete listing of guidance is available in the Coronavirus section of the Diocesan website (see message library).