The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has issued Local authority preparations for Remembrance Sunday, which was updated on 2 November 2020. The document is directed at Local Authorities, who have the responsibility for organizing events:
“Local authorities in England can organise outdoor Remembrance Sunday events at a public war memorial or cenotaph, if you complete a COVID-19 risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus. You must also take into account the national guidance on outdoor events, including all cleaning and hygiene precautions.
The note sets out how Remembrance Sunday activities can take place in line with current COVID-19 restrictions and requirements in England [emphasis added]:
“As of 14 September, there are new legal requirements which apply to Remembrance Sunday events. Other information contained in this note is based on existing guidance, and has been brought together to aid those organising local activities for Remembrance Sunday.
The COVID Alert Levels, across all tiers, provide for a specific exception for Remembrance Sunday events for participants and spectators, provided appropriate precautions are undertaken by the event organiser.
It is important to consider other local restrictions which may apply in your area, when planning events. You can find out whether additional measures apply in your area.“
The document includes information on: Who can organise a Remembrance Sunday event? What can a Remembrance Sunday event involve? Who can attend a Remembrance Sunday event? Test and Trace; and Communal Worship. With regard to the last item, the version of 2 November stated:
Remembrance Sunday services are traditionally part of communal worship. Places of worship remain open for communal worship services for as many people as can be safely accommodated.
Whilst engaging in an activity in the place of worship or surrounding grounds, all parties should adhere to social distancing guidelines at all times, even within a group of 6. This means people should be 2 metres apart or more than 1 metre apart as well as taking extra steps to stay safe (such as wearing face coverings) to reduce the risk of transmission.
It is important that risks are managed sensibly and in line with wider Places of worship guidance, and that services conform with the COVID Local Alert Level restrictions.”
Part 5 of the government guidance New National Restrictions from 5 November, which was updated on 1 November, currently states:
“Places of Worship will be closed, unless they are being used for:
- To broadcast acts of worship
- Individual prayer
- Formal childcare or where part of a school
- Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks
- Other exempted activities such as some support groups”.
In the House of Commons on the afternoon of 2 November, the Prime Minister stated:
“Places of worship can open for individual prayer, funerals and formal childcare but sadly not for services.”
On 3 November, MHCLG updated the Local Authority preparations for Remembrance Day to read:
Remembrance Sunday services are traditionally part of communal worship. From 5 November, places of worship are not permitted to open for communal worship. Celebrants may, however, enter places of worship to broadcast services to their communities and will be able to incorporate Remembrance services as part of this when they do so.”
I think we will have to wait to see what is in the new ‘lockdown’ regulations for England, due to be laid before Parliament today and debated on Wednesday before coming into force on Thursday. (They are not on the ‘legislation.gov’ website yet.) For ‘Remembrance Day Communal Worship’ to be permitted in churches next weekend will require such an exemption to be included in the regulations. At present, for the updated Guidance (issued, I notice, by the MHCLG, not the Cabinet Office) to say that “Remembrance Sunday services are traditionally part of communal worship. Places of worship remain open for communal worship services for as many people as can be safely accommodated” is inconsistent with the Guidance issued on Saturday evening by the Cabinet Office. But then, what’s new in this Government sending out mixed messages?
The Prime Minister, in his statement in the House of Commons this afternoon (Monday 2 November), said that outdoor Remembrance Sunday ceremonies can go ahead, but it seems clear that indoor acts of communal worship will not be allowed. However, the MHCLG Guidance is still saying (at 4.30 pm) under ‘Communal Worship’: “Remembrance Sunday services are traditionally part of communal worship. Places of worship remain open for communal worship services for as many people as can be safely accommodated.”
The new regulations are still not available on the legislation.gov website.
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