COVID-19: New MHCLG Guidance on places of worship in England

Late on the afternoon of Friday 6 November 2020, the MHCLG published updated Guidance COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic. Its summary of the position for places of worship is reproduced below; however, reference should be made to the full document.

Summarising the position for places of worship

From Thursday 5 November national COVID-19 restrictions will apply in England. These restrictions:

  • require people to stay at home, except for specific purposes
  • prevent people gathering with those they do not live with, except for specific purposes
  • close certain businesses and venues

See guidance on these new national restrictions.

Under these restrictions, from 5 November places of worship in England must only open for the following purposes:

Individual prayer

A person, or single household, entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group. Individual prayer does not cover attendance for led prayers or led services. Communal worship must not take place.

The number of individuals or households permitted in a place of worship at any one time will be dependent on the size of the building and ability to socially distance therein.

Precautions to stop people arriving at the same time should be taken, no matter the size of the building.


Funerals must have no more than 30 people.

Anyone working is not included as part of the 30 person limit. Please refer to COVID-19: guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic.

Commemorative events to celebrate the life of a person who has died

These are events which commemorate or mark the deceased’s passing. Examples include the scattering of ashes and stone setting ceremonies. It would not include regular communal worship services during which prayers for the deceased are said. Such events must have no more than 15 people in attendance. Anyone working is not included as part of the 15 person limit.

Broadcasting or filming an act of worship

Attending a place of worship for broadcasting or filming an act of worship is permitted but should only involve those people working or volunteering who are essential for the content of the service, and for technical support to enable people to watch and worship online or via a television or radio.

If musicians or singers usually form part of the act of worship that is being broadcast, they may participate but only if they are essential to the delivery of that act of worship. The numbers or people involved should be kept as small as possible to minimise risks and participants should follow social distancing guidance.

Childcare and education

For formal childcare and where the place of worship is used as part of a school (if this is provided by a person registered on the Early Years Register under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006).

Out-of-school settings (including wraparound childcare) can continue to operate if it is primarily for the purpose of enabling parents to work or other essential purposes as outlined in the guidance for education and childcare settings: new national restrictions from 5 November 2020.

Essential voluntary and public services

These will include the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions, or support in an emergency. See COVID-19 guidance for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations.

Support groups

To ensure support for the most vulnerable during this period, support groups that provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support can take place with up to 15 people attending, if the support group is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body.

Examples include support to:

a) victims of crime (including domestic abuse)

b) those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour

c) new parents

d) those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable

e) those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender

f) those who have suffered bereavement

g) vulnerable young people, including to enable them to meet youth workers

Anyone working is not included as part of the 15 person limit.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "COVID-19: New MHCLG Guidance on places of worship in England" in Law & Religion UK, 6 November 2020,

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