Coronavirus Guidance for Property
Update 2 December 2021
There has been no change in the Government advice with regards to worship (there is no requirement for people to wear masks in church). However, since September the Methodist Church has been encouraging local congregations to continue to wear masks in worship for the sake of others who are gathered. Given that a new variant has been identified it seems wise that local trustees encourage members of congregations to wear a mask during worship.
Update 26 November 2021
Following its monthly review of current Government guidance, the Methodist Church does not see a need to change its overall guidance as outlined previously in July and September which remain current. We would remind everyone of the need to assess their local situation and respond accordingly and proportionately. National reports still indicate that there are still high rates of infection, although there are regional differences, so be aware of local conditions and local health authority guidance specific to your community. The government has two key documents which Managing Trustees can use in assessing their local responses – the Autumn and Winter Plan and the guidance on ventilating indoor spaces. The Government has not issued any updated guidance in relation to churches except for its Guidance for Funerals, which reflects current advice on the use of LFD tests to limit transmission. We will undertake a further review in December.
Update 16 September 2021
As the end of summer nears, the Government has set out plans for tackling the COVID-19 virus during the autumn and winter periods. At this stage, the Methodist Church does not see a need to change its overall guidance as outlined on the 22 July 2021. This saw a move towards making more informed decisions locally. Full details of the Government’s statement can be found on the Autumn and Winter Plan. We are continuing to monitor Government guidance on a monthly basis, and will communicate any changes as needed through the usual communication channels.
You and your leadership teams may want to start preparing in advance for the changing seasons though, so below are some key considerations to help with these preparations:
What are the main considerations for using our buildings during autumn and winter?
As has always been the case, the risks of catching or passing on COVID-19 are greater in crowded spaces and in enclosed indoor spaces with limited natural ventilation. Activities such as singing, dancing and exercise will also increase this risk further through greater air-borne particles. Making physical or behavioural changes to reduce or manage these risks will make a positive difference.
Continue to ventilate indoors or meet outdoors if possible:
If this is not possible or practical, Government SAGE data suggests that opening windows regularly for 10 minutes, or a small amount continuously, can help reduce the risk of transmission compared to no ventilation. The use of CO2 monitors can also help highlight areas of poor natural ventilation in a building. There is also an ‘easy read’ version of the Government’s more detailed ventilation guidance, which can be found on Ventilation of indoor spaces to stop the spread of COVID-19 (easy read) (publishing.service.gov.uk)
Continue to wear face coverings if possible:
It may be suitable in crowded or enclosed spaces, particularly if ventilation is poor, to wear face coverings to reduce the risk of transmission. Particularly where you share spaces with people you do not normally meet.
Continue to get tested and self-isolate if needed:
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and take a free PCR test as soon as possible. Anyone who tests positive must self-isolate. Equally, anyone notified they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive should also take a free PCR test as soon as possible and self-isolate if required. Stay at home if you are feeling unwell.
Continue to encourage good hygiene practice:
Provide hand sanitiser in convenient areas throughout the building for everyone to use; keep established practices of cleaning surfaces touched regularly and rooms with high use by different groups such as toilets and kitchens.
Are there any changes for those undertaking pastoral work?
YES – from 11 November 2021, those undertaking pastoral work within Care Quality Commission-regulated care homes providing accommodation for persons who require nursing or personal care will need to be fully vaccinated.
Are there any printed resources available for buildings?
Update 22 July 2021
One of the aims of the latest government communiqué is to enable the public to make informed decisions. We are keen ministers and leadership teams do likewise. We offer these guidelines to help you, and your leadership teams, make decisions linked to your local context. The key documents to review are:
- Guide to Managing Your Church Building
- Covid-19 Risk Assessment (Word) or (pdf)
- Cleaning Churches during Coivd-19
- Re-Opening a Building Checklist (Word) or (pdf)
- Guide for Pastoral Visits
To view the latest government guidance, please refer to the Safe Use of Places of Worship.
What will the lifting of restrictions mean for churches and communal worship?
As the government restrictions have been lifted, there is an emphasis on ‘personal responsibility.' Currently, the guidance states that:
- No maximum numbers for meeting in any indoor or outdoor environments, including removing restrictions on group sizes attending communal worship.
- Communal singing can resume.
- All venues currently closed will be allowed to open.
- No restrictions on weddings, funerals or baptisms.
- No requirement for Covid-19 vaccination status certification to enter a venue.
- No legal requirement to wear a face covering, although it will be ‘advised’ for enclosed and crowded spaces.
- No social distancing rules, although the risks to those deemed vulnerable need to be considered.
- No need for ‘Covid-secure’ environments.
- Encouragement to continue good cleaning and hygiene procedures.
- Good fresh air supplies into a property will still be encouraged, and steps should be taken to improve it if ventilation is poor.
- There may be temporary local restrictions or additional advice offered by health officials in areas of high infection rates, so this will need monitoring locally.
- No further work-from-home directive.
- An encouragement to continue to use the NHS Test and Trace system.
What does the Methodist Church advise?
The Methodist Church, whilst always adhering to government advice, is urging some caution for the sake of others in the church, community and for self-care.
- Firstly, from a missional perspective, reflect on and continue with the positive changes that have been made during the pandemic. Perhaps this has been live-streaming services or more outward-looking mission into the community through outdoor services, prayer or house groups or other events. Look to improve on these as a means of giving people within and outside the church continued access to worship, teaching and support during this period of transition and change.
- This will help in considering whether it is appropriate to return to a building or whether the mission of God and the work of the church is better done in another way. In some places, the decision might even be not to resume physical worship in the building. This should not be seen as a failure, but as a response to the movement of the Spirit of God as we seek to create new places for new people.
- Please refer to the Guide to Managing Your Church Building for further information.
What should we consider before reopening our church buildings?
- If you have not yet reopened the building, we would recommend a cautious, phased return. We encourage dialogue with congregations to ensure they feel safe to return to in-person worship. The aim is to build up the community of believers who feel safe, rather than see them staying away for fear of the virus.
- Likewise, we encourage early discussions with individuals or groups from the wider community who will be returning to use your building to ensure that any concerns and expectations are shared through a transparent process. Work together to risk assess all those using the building and any new bookings with Covid-19 safety measures in mind.
- Before opening the building, a careful risk assessment of a building should be carried out before congregations return. Please work through the Re-Opening a Building Checklist (Word) or (pdf) followed by a Covid-19 Risk Assessment (Word) or (pdf). Please note that churches can choose to use other risk assessment forms if that is their preference.
How can we make our buildings as safe as possible?
In returning to buildings, consideration should be given to:
- Appropriate use of face coverings. Would it be sensible as a congregation to wear them for a little longer?
- Good ventilation to properties or considering meeting outdoors.
- Encouraging frequent hand washing and keeping sanitiser out for people to use.
- Encouraging people to stay at home if they are unwell.
- Considering individual risks: such as clinical vulnerabilities, illness and vaccination status.
- Retaining retiring offering or online giving rather than ‘passing the offering plate’.
- Deter handshaking and hugging and find other ways to share ‘the Peace’.
- Encourage the continued use of personal, not shared items, such as books.
- Refer to the Cleaning Churches during Covid-19 for further guidance on cleaning.
Further guidance for ministers and leaders of worship
- Those who lead worship should bear in mind that the virus is still highly prevalent. Care should be taken to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, including reviewing the length of service and the number of hymns sung (when permitted), avoiding various people handling the same piece of equipment etc.
- For the time being, we suggest ministers should refrain from using the common cup for Holy Communion.
- We recommend keeping the elements to be distributed covered during the thanksgiving prayer if it is deemed inappropriate for the presiding minister to wear a mask. It may be wise for those distributing to wear face coverings.
- Similarly, for the time being, consider retaining the reasonable safe practices for cafes when providing or distributing food and drink, such as after a service or other events.
- Although not required by law, it is probably wise to retain the NHS Test and Trace system for the time being in case of an outbreak in the church community. We would want to be able to inform our neighbours to proceed with caution if someone they had come into contact with had tested positive.
- We do not recommend requesting proof of vaccination before a person is admitted to church.
- Review the Guide for Pastoral Visits when preparing for pastoral visits.
- Refer to the Children, Youth and Family resources page and in particular the section on Changing Times for guidance regarding children, youth and family work.
Please note that this for England only.
For information in other regions, please click on the links below:
Scotland – please refer to the Scottish Guidance for the Safe Use of Places of Worship
Wales –please refer to the Guidance for Re-Opening Places of Worship
Other helpful links include:
If you have a specific question, please contact your District Property Secretary or Property Support.