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Update 25 November 2020

The Prime Minister has announced that England will be returning to a Local Restriction Tiers system from 2 December 2020.  See Coronavirus Guidance for Property

 

Update 12 November 2020

Minor updates including baby and toddler groups. See Coronavirus Guidance for Property

 

Update 5 November 2020

New lockdown restrictions with detail on broadcasting, out-of-school activities and support groups. See Coronavirus Guidance for Property

 

Update 13 October 2020

How the new three-tier Covid alert levels will affect churches. See Coronavirus Guidance for Property

 

Update 8 October

The Covid-19 Risk Assessment has been updated and enhanced in light of recent updates. See Coronavirus Guidance for Property

 

Update 29 September 

Guides for Weddings, Open Air Worship, Church Meetings, Small Gatherings & House Groups, Pastoral Visits and Face Coverings. See Coronavirus Guidance for Property

 

Update 22 September 

We are yet to fully establish the impact of recent Government announcements on the life of the Church and of today’s speech from the Prime Minister. The transcript of the speech can be read here.

We will be reviewing our guidelines to reflect any changes that will affect churches and their associated community activities. More detailed guidance will be made available shortly.

The key points are:

  • Education establishments to remain open at present (this is assumed to include pre-schools subject to details);
  • Community & church cafés should only operate a table service and close by 10pm;
  • All staff and customers in community and church cafes, charity shops, etc will now have to wear a face covering (unless seated for eating/drinking where relevant);
  • In many sectors, which might include projects run through churches, working to Covid-secure guidelines will now be a legal obligation;
  • Weddings will only be able to have a maximum of 15 people (down from 30) attending the service and reception afterwards;
  • Funeral numbers allowed to attend remain unchanged at 30 people;
  • Currently new shielding measures for those who are more vulnerable remain unchanged at present;
  • Places of Worship are allowed to remain open

 The following guides have been updated today:

  •  Guide to Using Your Worship Space
  •  Guide for Other Community Users
  •  Guide for Children’s, Young Person’s and Intergenerational Activities & Worship
  •  Guide for Food and Drink in Worship and Non-Worship Settings

These can be found here.


Update 17 September

Our property guidance has now been updated reflecting the implications of the 'rule of six'. More here.

Update 10 September

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government last night provided us with further clarification on the Government announcement this week of changes to permitted social interaction which come into place on Monday 14 September in England. We understand that the full regulations will be published later this week and we will update our guidance accordingly.

In summary:

  • Places of Worship can remain open for services and prayer.  As before, the limit on the number of people is determined by the risk assessment with attendees divided into multiple groups of no more than 6 people.
  • Weddings and funerals are still allowed and maximum numbers remain at 30 with people divided into multiple groups of no more than 6.
  • Community Halls remain open and activities are allowed as before but within each activity, participants can be in groups that consist of no more than 6 people.

The government has emphasised that venues must be Covid-19 secure and contact details must be left for Test and Trace.  More information can be read here.  

Update 9 September

The Archbishop of Canterbury has posted the text below on social media following yesterday’s Government announcement regarding social interactions:

"After contact with Government we hear that there is no change to guidance on places of worship. Worship is the work of God – not a social gathering – and gives the strength to love and serve.
The increase in COVID cases is very concerning. We must follow the guidance and take all the necessary measures to keep people safe.
And let’s keep praying for everyone who is affected – those who are ill, or whose families are ill, those who are anxious, or struggling with cancelled plans and isolation. We give grateful thanks to God for the NHS and all those who work tirelessly to keep us safe."
The Archbishop of Canterbury
  
  
  

Update 3 September

Updated with guidance and information on conferring and decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Update 30 July 

Updated information around Synods and church meetings

Update 23 July

Updated information around meetings at Methodist Church House.

Update 1 July

Updated guidance for re-opening churches in England including advice on baptisms, weddings and funerals is now available on the Coronavirus Guidance for Property page.

Update 26 June

The Government announced that Places of Worship can open from 4th July with certain restrictions.  The Opening of Churches for Worship in England guidance from the Methodist Church is now available on the Coronavirus Guidance for Property page.

Update 12 June

The Government has now published its guidance for the re-opening of places of worship for private prayer. You can read the guidance here. See update from 11 June for details of guidance we have published for Methodist church buildings.

Read a blog by Jude Levermore, Head of Mission here.

Update 11 June

The Government has changed its advice to allow churches and other religious buildings to open for individual prayer from Saturday June 13.

The Methodist Church’s advice remains that churches stay closed, but we recognise that different parts of the British Isles might be at different stages (and local lockdown rules may apply) and we appreciate that there may be those who feel their mission depends on their church being open for individual prayer. If Managing Trustees feel they are at a point where they want to open their buildings for individual prayer, this guidance must be followed.

When the Government announced its intention to change the advice it stated that: ‘Places of worship still have discretion over when they consider it safe to open and may decide to remain closed or reopen at a slower pace if they wish’ and we would like to stress that no-one should feel under any pressure to open buildings for individual prayer.

We understand the vital need for prayer at this time and have found that our people have been praying no less because they have not had buildings in which to pray. We know that mission, ministry and church has been happening in new and exciting ways in these times.

We are conscious that those churches in jurisdictions outside England may have different needs and mission opportunities, and have to abide by different regulations from English churches.

Above all, we want people to pray and worship safely and as we have already stated, we are committed to doing a full review of our guidance after the Conference.

Government announcements about opening for private prayer are here and FAQs here.

 

Property guidance updated on 26 May 2020 in light of current Government Guidelines*

Re-opening Church Buildings

The Property team are currently working on guidelines with regard to safe reopening of our buildings for certain activities.  Updates will be posted here: www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/property/coronavirus-guidance-for-property/

  

Coronavirus FAQs

How do we best confer and make decisions during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

What about communion in the light of Covid-19?

I am a minister due to move this August. What’s happening?

Can we hold baptisms, weddings or funerals?  

Where a preschool is offering care for children of key workers – is it ok for that group to continue you using our building?

Can support meetings like AA still continue to meet in our buildings? 

Blood Donors use our church – is it ok for that group to continue you using our building?  

Can we use our church buildings for recording or live-streaming worship?

What are the copyright implications of doing our own live-streaming?

What special safeguarding considerations are there during the pandemic?

Can we still post or hand-deliver resources and letters?

What impact does coronavirus have if I’m employing staff?  

What should we do if we are considering furloughing lay employees? 

What should I do about the church property while it's empty? 

What activities are now allowed in church buildings?

I am concerned about church finances – what can I do?   

How do we submit Gift Aid donations during lockdown?

What about filing our annual return with the Charity Commission? 

Can we conduct church meetings, church council and Synods online? 

We haven’t been able to hold our General Church Meeting this year because of COVID-19. What do we do?

What is happening to Methodist Council meetings?

What about candidates for the ministry? 

What should I do if I am due to take my sabbatical?

How will supervision work while we self-isolate?

How can I contact someone at Methodist Church House?

Will meetings still be going ahead at Methodist Church House?

 

How do we best confer and make decisions during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

As we move into the Autumn, and prepare for the usual round of local church meetings and councils, we are offering a short, accessible resource to guide and inform local churches and those who lead them about how we are approaching this work in the current situation.

In it, you’ll find some theological reflection on how who we are as Methodists might underpin our way of doing this, alongside a summary of some of the practical guidance already issued about what we can do and how we might do it.

Finally, we’ve offered a few thoughts and spurs for reflection on inclusion, pastoral care, and collaboration involving the whole community. We hope it’s useful, and perhaps even provides some resource for deeper conversations about how we do the sacred ‘business’ of the Church in more ‘normal’ times.

You’ll find the resource here in two Pdf formats:

Conferring and Decision-Making during the COVID-19 Pandemic - A4 version
for reading online (there are some hyperlinks in it to connect you to some key texts for reflection), or for those with visual impairment, or just needing a simpler format;

Conferring and Decision-Making during the COVID-19 Pandemic - paginated booklet version, which creates an A5 leaflet. To print this version off, we recommend that you ensure that your print settings are:

  • A4
  • Fit to printable area
  • Print on both sides.

Then you can fold the pages into a paginated A5 leaflet.

What about communion in the light of Covid-19?

The Faith and Order Committee have produced guidance for local churches that seeks to encourage reflection on deprivation and on the sacrament of Holy Communion, as well as providing practical guidance and suggestions so as to enable Holy Communion to be celebrated in safe and appropriate ways. See Holy Communion: Responding Pastorally in the light of Covid-19

 

I am a minister due to move this August. What’s happening?

The Conference will be asked to adopt the changes to the stations as usual and at present we are assuming that all moves will go ahead as planned during the summer (therefore removals should be booked). A small contingency group has been established to look at issues that might arise and we will publish further advice if the situation changes.

 

Can we hold baptisms, wedding and funerals?

See our updated guidance on  www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/property/coronavirus-guidance-for-property/

 

Where a preschool is offering care for children of key workers – is it ok for that group to continue you using our building?

For all questions about property and the use of church buildings please see www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/property/coronavirus-guidance-for-property/

 

Can support meetings like AA still continue to meet in our buildings?

For all questions about property and the use of church buildings please see www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/property/coronavirus-guidance-for-property/

 

Blood Donors use our church – is it ok for that group to continue you using our building?

For all questions about property and the use of church buildings please see www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/property/coronavirus-guidance-for-property/

 

Can we use our church buildings for recording or live-streaming worship?

UPDATED 27 May

The Methodist Church is today updating its guidance on livestreaming or recording services to allow ministers or leaders to do this in Methodist property. (The updated guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.)

It is acknowledged that over this time many have found creative ways and locations to deliver spiritual support and continue to worship and while the updated guidance is not intended to replace this, it does provide an alternative if individuals wish to consider livestreaming or recording from their church buildings.

The guidance sets out what practical steps need to be considered, including who else can go into the building, how it should be cleaned, general safety and social distancing. This guidance needs to be carefully considered and strictly adhered to.

Read the live-streaming from church buildings guidelines (Pdf)

  

What are the copyright implications of doing our own live-streaming?

See Information about doing your own live-streaming and sharing resources

 

What special safeguarding considerations are there during the pandemic?

See Safeguarding considerations

 

 Can we still post or hand deliver resources and letters?

If you have members of your church or community who aren’t online, you might want to consider printing the services sheets and other resources from our website (as well as personal letters) and posting them on. You can buy stamps online. Royal Mail has advice on its service during the pandemic if you have any questions or concerns: www.royalmail.com/coronavirus
Please don’t post if you have any symptoms and use water or tape to seal envelopes. Wash your hands before stuffing envelopes and if possible wear gloves when you go to the post box.

Hand delivering can also be acceptable if it is done as part of your allowed daily exercise, and you observe social distancing. Again you should use water or tape to seal envelopes. Wash your hands before stuffing envelopes and if possible wear gloves when you hand deliver. Don’t hand deliver if you have any symptoms. 

Vulnerable people should never post or hand deliver.

 

What impact does coronavirus have if I’m employing staff?

There are many questions around employment at this time, and the HR department have produced a detailed document looking at issues such as what your duties are as an employer and if your employee needs time off work to look after children. 

They have also produced a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for Churches, Circuits and Districts 

Download both documents here 

 

What should we do if we are considering furloughing lay employees? 

Update 4 June

We are aware that the Government’s furlough scheme is changing and we will liaise with those Treasurers who have already been in contact with us about furloughing staff.

Previous update 22 April

The government has now launched the process by which companies and charities can claim to 80% of the salary costs of employees who have been ‘furloughed’ as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Further information on the process to claim this money can be found here.

 

What should I do about the church property while it's empty?

The Property Team have issued Coronavirus guidance for property here.

TMCP have also issued their own coronavirus FAQs here.

 

What activities are now allowed in church buildings?

The Property Team have issued Coronavirus guidance for property here.

 

I am concerned about church finances – what can I do?

This is likely to be a difficult time financially for local churches, circuits and districts, with typical sources of income such as lettings and offerings collected during worship drying up. Methodist Insurance has confirmed that there is no cover under the ‘business interruption,’ section of a Church’s insurance policy for any loss of revenue and additional costs incurred due to the virus.

Emergencies such as this are what reserves and unrestricted funds at banks, the CFB or TMCP are for. You may wish to use them to offset losses in income. Consider ‘undesignating,’ designated funds so that money can be diverted to the General Church Fund if reserves are low.

Local Churches do still have to pay essential bills such as the Circuit Assessment. Get in touch with your Circuit Steward(s) if the virus is likely to impact your ability to pay the next in May. Suggest deferring the payment, and perhaps remind them that in assessing your contribution, they should take into account your ‘needs and ability to pay,’ (515(3)).

If your church or circuit has sufficient reserves and is relatively unaffected financially by the virus, you may wish to use your Benevolence Fund to assist other local charities, provided that their charitable purposes aren’t contrary to those of the Methodist Church.

If your congregation is keen to support your Church or Circuit financially in these difficult and uncertain times, consider encouraging donations by means of direct debit for the foreseeable future

As well, there is further guidance from TMCP on Payment of Rent:  Concerns Raised by Tenants during Covid-19 Pandemic

At this stage we are asking any church that experiences financial difficulty to talk to the leadership team in their Circuit, and any Circuit that is in difficulty to talk to their District. Any concerns that arise at a District level can be taken up with the Connexional Team’s Finance department. Contact: Matthew Tattersall: tattersallm@methodistchurch.org.uk

 

How do we submit Gift Aid donations during lockdown?

The Connexional Team have been liaising with the Charity Finance Group and the Churches Legislation Advisory Service who have been lobbying HMRC concerning the Gift Aid Small Donation Scheme. Whilst the rules have not changed, HMRC have provided a helpful interpretation of the guidance that will assist many treasurers and gift aid secretaries. The HMRC response is as follows:

“In respect of GASDS, guidance on the eligibility for donations for inclusion in this scheme is clear in stating that claims can only be made on cash donations of £30 or less; and contactless card donations of £30 or less collected on or after 6 April 2019. The decision over what constitutes an eligible donation is one for the church/charity to make for themselves, rather than for HMRC, but the conditions for something to be considered a ‘small donation’ are clearly set out in legislation. Where it is the case, for example, of separate donations being given in a single envelope, then if the church/charity official is happy these are clearly separate ‘small donations’ (and clearly stated as such) then they will be eligible for GASDS, as is the case where separate envelopes are used”.

 

What about filing our annual return with the Charity Commission?

Like many organisations, the Charity Commission is coping with increased demand. It has reassured trustees that it will adopt a ‘flexible and pragmatic approach,’ to regulation in the coming months.

For example, registered Methodist charities can request an extension on submitting their annual returns. The Commission has stated that Serious Incident Reports are to be made as normal, but do not expect a quick reply given the circumstances. Contact the Conference for Guidance on Reporting Serious Incidents.

Regulators understand that continuing as usual will not win them any friends. The Information Commissioner’s Office has recognised that charities’ usual standards of compliance with data protection law may dip while the Fundraising Regulator has encouraged charities to continue all but face to face fundraising, including events. 

OSCR, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, has also published an update which you can read here

  

Can we conduct church meetings, church council and Synods online? 

The short answer is ‘yes’.

The 2020 Conference passed a resolution effectively enabling church business meetings to be held electronically whilst the public health restrictions on physical meetings continue. This resolution applies particularly where it would otherwise be impossible to comply with Standing Orders, for example in appointing church officers for the coming year.

Whilst the initial national lockdown due to COVID-19 may be easing, understandable concerns remain about the risks of holding ‘physical’ meetings where people are gathered together in one place. Accordingly, all churches, Circuits and Districts are able and encouraged to conduct meetings on an electronic ‘virtual’ basis. Recommended video-conferencing platforms include MS Teams and Zoom, the latter being particularly popular for meetings with a large number of participants. The Connexional Team has already issued guidance to enable Districts to host their autumn Synods by Zoom webinar, which you can read here: www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/guidance-for-churches/using-zoom-webinar-for-synods/

Online ‘virtual’ meetings should be conducted in very much the same way as you would normally. Items will be discussed, conferred upon and then agreed. Only those participants to the meeting may take part in voting (Methodist Standing Orders do not allow for proxy voting). Clearly, not all participants being in the same room presents challenges for meeting Chairs and there needs to be good discipline during the meeting such as ‘muting’ microphones when not speaking and ‘raising hands’ to indicate when participants want to speak. Further advice on running virtual meetings and meeting etiquette can be found here www.icsa.org.uk/knowledge/resources/good-practice-for-virtual-board-and-committee-meetings 

However, it is important that running virtual meetings should not preclude any participants who are not so technically engaged and savvy, or do not have an internet connection, for example. Where possible, allowances should be made for such people, for example, enabling them to dial into meetings by telephone or supplying IT equipment.

As for all church business, please make sure you document everything properly and keep a record of all decisions made. You should state in the meeting minutes that the meeting was held electronically.

  

We haven’t been able to hold our General Church Meeting this year because of COVID-19. What do we do?  

The short answer is ‘convene an online meeting’. See Can we conduct church meetings, church council and Synods online?

 

What is happening to Methodist Council meetings?

The Methodist Council has been meeting online since March to ensure that essential business is carried out.

 

What about candidates for the ministry?

The Candidates Committee will not meet in the way planned from 23 March but all candidates have been contacted about the way in which the candidating process will be completed

  

What should I do if I am due to take my sabbatical?

In order that the Church’s ministry might be at full strength after the crisis prearranged sabbaticals should be taken as arranged and may only be deferred with the permission of the District Sabbaticals Group (SO 744) Any change in the timing of a sabbatical may only take place after consultation as directed in SO744  noting that this will impact on future planning.

Full guidance is found in SO 744 and this must be followed.

 

How will supervision work while we self-isolate?

Read guidance on Offering supervision while social distancing 

Download Receiving supervision while social distancing (Pdf)

  

How can I contact someone at Methodist Church House?

The building is now fully closed with the staff working remotely. You can still call reception on 020 7486 5502 or email on enquiries@methodistchurch.org.uk If you have a meeting planned at MCH and you haven’t heard from the meeting organiser, please assume it is cancelled and do not travel to MCH.

If you have a question which isn’t answered here please email: enquiries@methodistchurch.org.uk

 

Will meetings still be going ahead at Methodist Church House?

We are working hard to make Methodist Church House Covid-secure, but the Government’s guidance for offices is that face to face meetings should be avoided where possible. Therefore, the Senior Management Team have decided, for the safety of staff and members of the church, that all physical meetings at Methodist Church House between September and December should be postponed or be transferred to online meetings.

If you have any questions about the meeting you were due to attend, please contact the meeting organiser.

 

A message of thanks and support

Dear Friends,

We in the Connexional Team are working hard to support you all in Mission and Ministry to fulfil your calling. We wanted to say how grateful we are for the way you have responded to the challenges of these current times. We have seen so many of you going the extra mile in producing web based worship, in sharing resources, and in building one another up. This will be a marathon and not a sprint, we are committed to serving you as you serve the world, take care of yourselves and please feel free to make contact if we can offer more, or you spot gaps that you might have ideas on filling.  Thank you.

Jude Levermore Head of Mission and Paul Wood Interim Director of the Ministries Team

 

More information

Guidance on avoiding the spread of the virus on the NHS website

How to tell if you have coronavirus

Number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and risk in the UK

COVID-19: guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection

COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses 

Government advice for travellers, including those that want to return from various countries.

 

Download an NHS handwashing poster to print out (Pdf)

 

If you have any questions regarding the Methodist Church and coronavirus, please email enquiries@methodistchurch.org.uk 


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