On 18 July 2022, the Church of England issued “COVID-19 Opening and managing church buildings“, now at version 3.2. This is an update of the previous guidance (3 May 2022) to include a revised situation report and changes in government guidance on risk assessments. It is prefaced on the COVID-19 guidance page by: “[a]s national case numbers remain high it is important that, while we should continue to offer Holy Communion in both kinds, no pressure is placed on individual members of congregation to receive the sacrament if they feel unable to do so”.
The relevant parts of the Church of England guidance have been gathered in a single document, as in previous versions. At 12 pages in length, clergy, PCCs, and others may find it useful to mark up a copy and highlight issues which are relevant to their church(es). Underpinning the guidance is the section: Who makes the decision on what happens in church settings and at events held in church buildings?. Version 3.1 has been changed and now reads:
“The fact that there is now a need to consider the coronavirus risk as a factor in many decisions does not change who has to make a specific decision. The responsibility for acts of worship is on the incumbent, so they must decide if, for example, there may be a need to conduct an act of worship in a different way to how it was done before the pandemic. By contrast, an event run by the PCC in a church hall which it owns is for the PCC to make decisions about. A pastorally sensitive and consultative approach is always to be preferred.
Incumbents and PCCs should feel empowered to make locally appropriate decisions, including taking different approaches to different types of services and events where the risks may vary. Your archdeacon may be able to help if you would appreciate support with this.
All incumbents and PCCs are encouraged to review their local arrangements regularly, in particular taking into account infection rates and the vulnerabilities and needs of their particular communities.”