“Worship” unaffected by new restrictions in England

With regard to the ban in England from 14 September on “social gatherings” of more than six people, the Archbishop of Canterbury tweeted

Subsequently, the Church of England issued the following statement:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): restrictions on social gatherings


Following indications that the number of people permitted to take part in a social gathering is to be reduced from 30 to six in England, we understand the new regulations will not apply to public worship or individual prayer in church buildings.

We await the full details of any proposed changes to regulations to ascertain whether they could affect places of worship or other venues in other ways and will update the Church of England Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance page accordingly.

Further information

The Catholic Herald report New social gathering restrictions ‘will not apply to churches’ states “the policy on places of worship was first announced on Twitter by Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said he had been in contact with the government”, following which the Catholic bishops said their guidance remains the same. In an email to the Catholic Herald, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said places of worship can stay open for services and communal prayer “as is currently the case”.

General information is available in the Press Releases:

and at 5:23 pm, Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, tweeted:

However, exact details of the changes as they might affect places of worship will not be known until the legislation and guidance has been published.


The Church of England’s statement was further updated at 18:38 on Wednesday 9 September, and is covered in our post Church of England: Places of worship and new restrictions.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "“Worship” unaffected by new restrictions in England" in Law & Religion UK, 9 September 2020, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2020/09/09/worship-unaffected-by-new-restrictions-in-england/

8 thoughts on ““Worship” unaffected by new restrictions in England

  1. What are the new rules regarding Church meetings such as the Annual Parochial Church Meetings, which many Parishes have just rearranged for September or October, having postponed them earlier in the year? They are not “social gatherings”, but nor are they “workplace meetings”.

    • Unfortunately we will not know the details of any new restrictions until the legislation and guidance has been published, and government has a poor track record on the delivery of these before the measures are in force. I would also advise caution on reading too much into what the Church was informed of this morning.

      The Archbishop’s tweet referring to “worship” and “places of worship” did not include “and singing” or anything else. The CofE Press Release was more guarded as to whether the full regulations would affect places of worship or other venues “in other ways”. Furthermore, much will depend upon how broadly “worship” is defined.

      In addition to APCMs, licensing &c, a significant issue for the Church of England is the virtual meeting of General Synod which is scheduled to take place on 24 September. This, and APCM, are matters of governance rather than “social gatherings” and ought to be regarded as such.

  2. What about meeting for worship in houses? Before Covid we met in a home group to pray, worship and read the bible. Can we meet with others to do the same still or are we limited to 6?

    • Guidance on the application of the “rule of 6” will be clearer once the legislation is in the public domain. Until then, in answer to the question “What is considered as a place of worship”, (i.e. the likely point of reference for the “rule of 6”, the Church of England COVID-19 Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship states:

      “The government has defined a place of worship as follows: ‘A place of worship refers to a building used for regular religious ceremonies, communal worship or similar gatherings by religious organisations. It includes the use of surrounding grounds, for example, adjoining carparks, courtyards or gardens for which the venue managers are also responsible…This guidance does not cover public parks, private homes, cultural sites or other open spaces, such as woodlands which may be used for religious purposes. If people do want to engage in worship in
      these spaces, then the guidance relevant to that place should be adhered to.’

  3. Pingback: Church of England: Places of worship and new restrictions | Law & Religion UK

  4. It is now Sunday 13 September. The new rules are supposed to come into force tomorrow Monday 14 September. How can the Government, the Police and others expect them to be complied with if they still haven’t been published?

  5. Can 12 people gather for worship over 2 private gardens, no more than 6 in each garden and keeping social distance?

    Is this is legal?

    • The new legislation covering the “rule of six” comes into force in just over one hour’s time, but until that legislation is made available, it is not possible to predict how it will affect various church activities. After its publication, whenever that is, the Church of England will update its own guidance, so it could be a day or so before this is published. We will be reporting this on this blog.

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