On 29 June, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government issued COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of places of worship from 4 July extracts of which are reproduced below.
This guidance will come into effect from 4 July 2020 in England alongside the relevant associated changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020, [not yet available]. Until 4 July you should continue to refer to the current guidance online here, which also sets out the current regulations., i.e. the principal regulations, SI 2020/350, as amended.
This guidance remains under review and may be updated in line with the changing situation.
Changes from 4 July
From 4 July, gatherings of more than 30 people will be permitted but only in certain public places as set out in law. This will include places of worship and their surrounding premises. There are however activities where it is advisable to restrict numbers to 30 within a place of worship for public health reasons. This guidance sets out those activities as well as how to ensure your place of worship is COVID-19 secure.
Whilst engaging in an activity in the place of worship or surrounding grounds, all parties should adhere to social distancing guidelines. From 4 July, 2 meters or 1 meter with risk mitigation (where 2 meters is not viable) between households are acceptable.
For acts of worship taking place away from the place of worship and surrounding grounds, as defined below, please follow the relevant guidance on the number of people permitted to gather in those spaces.
The following table sets out where it is advisable to limit the number of people within a place of worship due to the potential for increased spread of COVID-19.
|Activity||Advised gathering limit|
|Communal worship, including led prayers, devotions or meditations by a Minister of Religion or lay person.||Limits for communal worship should be decided on the basis of the capacity of the place of worship following a risk assessment (see Section 5 ‘Restrictions on Capacity’).
Social distancing should be strictly adhered to ( see Section 5 ‘Social Distancing’).
|Marriage ceremonies||Marriage ceremonies should have no more than 30 people in attendance, and social distancing should be strictly adhered to. See more detail in COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships.|
|Funerals||Funerals should have no more than 30 people in attendance, and social distancing should be strictly adhered to. See more detail in the COVID-19: guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic.|
|Other life cycle ceremonies (defined as “Religious ceremonies to mark rites of passage, which are separate, self-contained ceremonies as opposed to marking a life cycle event or rite in the course of routine communal worship”)||Other life cycle ceremonies should have no more than 30 people present unless the life cycle rite takes place during routine communal worship.
Social distancing should be strictly adhered to.
This guidance applies to places of worship when being used for a religious purpose or in preparation for a religious purpose.
Where a place of worship’s premises is used by other user groups, only those activities permitted by law should take place. Businesses which cannot yet operate are listed here (such as indoor fitness, indoor soft play, indoor performances in front of a live audience, etc).
For permitted uses of a place of worship not included in this guidance, you should refer to the specific guidance linked below:
- Tourism, retail and restaurants and other hospitality industries
- Meetings or small gatherings, as now permitted in other multi-use settings. (To be published shortly)
In an update on 29 June, the Diocese of Oxford stated “With the government guidance now published, we anticipate updated guidance from the national church being available in the next few days”. This statement was echoed by the Church of England on 30 June, .