Official guidance

Latest

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

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 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 a church business meeting remotely?

What is happening to Methodist Council meetings?

Should my church council / Synod still go ahead?

Is the Methodist Conference still going ahead?

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?

 

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 (updated 1 July) www.methodist.org.uk/media/17897/opening-churches-for-worship.pdf

 

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 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 a church business meeting remotely?

Meetings can continue supported by IT to enable people to meet ‘virtually’, for example, by using telephone conference calls or video conferencing.

CPD was written in a time when e-enabled meetings could not have been anticipated. However, the constitution does not prevent virtual meetings from happening. In addition, the Charity Commission in its guidance is encouraging charities to be flexible in their approach to work to allow business to continue as ‘normally’ as possible.

Accordingly, you are able and encouraged to continue to hold meetings on this virtual basis. Recommended video conferencing platforms include Microsoft Teams and Zoom, the latter we are finding to be the best particularly for meetings with larger groups of participants. The Methodist Council conducted their recent meeting virtually with 60+ participants.

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 will take part in voting (our CPD does not allow for proxy voting). Clearly, not all participants being in the same room presents challenges for 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. Also see the URC’s Guide for setting up and using Zoom.  The key safety and security tips are  here.

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, accessing meetings by telephone or supplying IT equipment.

The Charity Commission’s COVID-19 Guidance seeks to reassure trustees that it will overlook small procedural oversights in these challenging times. Making the best possible decisions is currently more important than the means by which you make them. Just be sure to keep a clear record of any decisions made so that they can be later evidenced and justified as necessary.

 

What is happening to Methodist Council meetings?

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

 

Should my church council/Synod still go ahead?

We recommend that all physical meetings including church councils and circuit meetings should be cancelled. 

Virtual meetings can go ahead, as per the above, but for essential business only. 

 

Is the Methodist Conference still going ahead?

The Methodist Council will meet online in June. See information here.

 

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

 

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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