[This is a re-issue of the post of first published on 9 September which due to a glitch within the system, became inaccessible to readers.]
COVID-19: places of worship and restrictions on social gatherings
Following the announcement of new ‘rule of six’ restrictions to help limit the spread of coronavirus, the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s recovery group, said:
“I welcome confirmation from the Prime Minister that places of worship can still hold more than six people in total, despite the new restrictions on gatherings, and the reassurance that public worship can continue, ensuring that our churches are there for people in their communities.
“We will continue to work with the Government on specific areas relating to our churches and church-based activities.”
Bishop Sarah’s carefully-worded statement follows the earlier tweet of Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, which additionally indicates the limits on weddings, funerals and life-cycle events.
In addition to these, there will be areas relating to churches and church-based activities for which the “rule of six” is applicable, although these may not be known until the legislation and guidance has been published. However, the Diocese of Oxford has posted a useful summary of what is known about the latest COVID-19 restrictions with regard to parishes/benefices.
It is known that from Monday 14 September [emphasis added]:
- Places of worship are Covid-secure venues, so they are exempt from the 6 people limit for services of public worship and private prayer;
- However groups inside church should not be more than 6, groups should not combine and there must be social distancing between groups.
- Covid-secure weddings, funerals and other stand alone services can go ahead up to a limit of 30 people.
“as ever, there is a lot of detail still to emerge. National Church colleagues are working hard with government departments and Public Health England to ascertain the detailed information parishes need, such as groups in other church settings, home groups, PCCs, APCMs etc.”
On Friday 11 September at 9.30, the Church of England issued the following update on its page with Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for churches: [underling in original]
“The Government has announced that new regulations relating to the ‘rule of six’ are being prepared.
Those regulation will not come into effect until Monday September 14 2020. Until then all of the advice below continues to apply as before.
The Church of England is engaging with the Government and will provide new advice to churches but we do not expect to be in a position to provide that until the week beginning September 14.”