Coronavirus Guidance for Property

Update 15 January 2021

The latest guidance for Places of Worship was published on 11 January and it should be noted that guidance for singing in churches in England has been updated in the light of current restrictions.  The following is a summary:

  • Where singing or chanting is essential to an act of worship, this should be limited to one person wherever possible. Exceptionally, where it is essential to the service, up to three individuals should be permitted to do so. Strict social distancing should be observed and the use of plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect worshippers, and each other.
  • Communal singing should not take place. This applies even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.
  • Chanting, shouting and/or playing of instruments that are blown into should also be avoided in communal worship and in rehearsals.
  • Where communal singing plays a big part in worship, and recordings are available, we suggest you use these as an alternative to live singing. 

 

Update 5 January 2021

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on 4 January 2021, a new National Lockdown has been announced in England.  This now supercedes all other previous government guidance, including the Tier system.  This came into effect from midnight on 4 January 2021.

A number of the restrictions outlined in the new government guidance affect Methodist Church property.  Unlike previous lockdown decisions, the government has decided that churches can remain open, along with community buildings for certain activities.  Click here to read more.  

Despite this government decision, it should be borne in mind that the opening of our church buildings is not mandatory, and it remains the responsibility of each Church Council to make this significant decision – which should not be taken lightly.  It should be based upon thorough risk assessments and planning to ensure that it is safe to do so.  Every venue should fully meet the health and safety requirements for a COVID-19 secure environment in opening and operation, including the impact on those opening a building and those attending if they fall into a vulnerable group.

The Connexional team have provided a variety of information on alternative ways to worship, fellowship and explore mission.  During this difficult time, we encourage you to explore these  as alternatives to opening a building and the increased risks this may bring.  

Please note that all church property must be COVID-19 secure if open for the uses outlined below.  

Activity England 


Communal Worship & Prayer 

Open but mixing of households/support bubbles is not allowed
Wedding Ceremonies 


Can only take place with up to 6 people and should only take place in exceptional circumstances*

Wedding Receptions  Are not permitted 
Funerals 

Can take place with a maximum of 30 attendees *

Post-death Commemorative Events

Can take place with up to 6 attendees *

Other Standalone Life-Cycle Ceremonies  Can take place with up to 6 attendees *

Support Groups

If they have to be delivered in person, they can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support.

Church cafes

Must close unless providing a takeaway service (until 11pm).

Non-essential retail (charity shops, etc)

Must close

Community Buildings Must close except for a limited number of exempt activities including education and training, childcare purposes, hosting blood donation sessions and food banks and to provide medical treatment.  

*This number does not include staff or anyone working during the event.  

For all other information relating to places of worship, please refer to the Safe Use of Places of Worship and the Safe Use of Multi-Purpose Facilities, which gives further details.

Guidance for Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man and Channel Islands

Scotlandnew stay at home regulations.  Please note that some islands remain in Tier 3.

  • Places of worship are required to close for worship, but can open for the purposes of leading an act of worship (broadcast or online), conducting a marriage ceremony or a funeral.​​​​​
  • Wedding ceremonies can take place with a maximum capacity of 5 people.
  • Funerals can take place with a maximum capacity of 20.
  • Wedding receptions and post funeral gatherings such as wakes cannot take place.
  • Christenings and other life events apart from weddings or funerals should not take place.
  • Church community buildings can continue to operate for the delivery of essential services only, such as emergency shelter, foodbanks, medical services or meals for the homeless.

Wales – all of Wales remains at Alert Level 4

For specific guidance in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands (Guernsey & Jersey), please follow the links for specific local regulations and guidance.

 Further information can be found on: 

If you have a specific question, please contact your District Property Secretary or Property Support.  

Click on each tab to find a range of documents - including risk assessments, cleaning guides and guidance for looking after empty properties.  

Guide Managing Your Church Building (20 Oct*)

The Guide to Managing Your Church Building will assist managing trustees to think through and prepare for conducting a Covid-19 Risk Assessment (Word) or (pdf version).  For specific guidance on activities or different user groups, including worship, please click on the tabs below.  

First Steps 

  1. If a church building has been closed, please work through the Re-Opening a Building Checklist (Word) or (pdf version)

  2. A Covid-19 Risk Assessment  (Word) or (pdf version) with an Action PlanThe government now states that a risk assessment on Covid-19 is mandatory to comply with H&S regulations.  Please note that churches can choose to use other risk assessment forms if that is their preference and HSE has produced a sample risk assessment.  

In the Cleaning Churches during Covid-19, there is guidance provided on adapting cleaning regimes for church buildings.

The government has introduced a new system of local Covid-19 Alert Levels in England.  Check the alert level for your area on the List of Areas with Local Restrictions.  Then read through for the guidelines for the relevant alert level:

The government have also produced printable A4 Local Alert Level posters for each level.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Wales.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Scotland.  

*20 Oct 2020 - updated the Guide for Managing Your Church Building  

Guide to Using Your Worship Space (20 Oct*)

The Guide to Managing Your Church Building will assist managing trustees to think through and prepare for conducting a risk assessment.  For specific guidance on activities or different user groups, click on the links below.  

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

To view a summary of restrictions for churches within each tier level, please refer to the Safe Use of Places of Worship

The government has introduced a new system of local Covid-19 Alert Levels in England.  Check the alert level for your area on the List of Areas with Local Restrictions.  Then read through for the guidelines for the relevant alert level:

The government have also produced printable A4 Local Alert Level posters for each level.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Wales.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Scotland.  

*Updated 20 Oct 2020 to reflect the Covid-19 Alert level tier system

Guide for Other Property Users (20 Oct*)

The Guide to Managing Your Church Building will assist managing trustees to think through and prepare for conducting a risk assessment.  For specific guidance on activities or different user groups, click on the links below.

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

To view a summary of restrictions for churches within each tier level, please refer to the Safe Use of Places of Worship

The government has introduced a new system of local Covid-19 Alert Levels in England.  Check the alert level for your area on the List of Areas with Local Restrictions.  Then read through for the guidelines for the relevant alert level:

The government have also produced printable A4 Local Alert Level posters for each level.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Wales.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Scotland.  

Leases and Licences

If you have questions about leases or a license, please refer to TMCP's FAQ's Regarding Leases during Covid-19.  If you have a specific query, then you may need to contact TMCP

*20 Oct 2020 - Updated to reflect new tier system

Guide for Construction, Repairs and Inspections (20 Oct*)

Please refer to the Guide for Construction, Repairs and Inspections for Churches & Manses as it covers a different of areas of construction, together with other factors that trustees need to consider in discussion with their professional advisors and contractors.

This guidance must be read in the context of where you live as devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales may have different guidelines.  

The government has introduced a new system of local Covid-19 Alert Levels in England.  Check the alert level for your area on the List of Areas with Local Restrictions.  Then read through for the guidelines for the relevant alert level:

The government have also produced printable A4 Local Alert Level posters for each level.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Wales.  

Click here for information about local lockdown in Scotland.  

Buying and Selling

Please refer to TMCP's guidance on Covid 19 and Residential Conveyancing Transactions

If your query is not covered in the guidance, please contact with TMCP regarding specifics.  

Quinquennial Inspections and Gas Safety Checks

Please refer to the new Connexional guidance for Quinquennial Inspections for further information.

Gas Safe has published specific guidance during the outbreak, which you can find here

If churches or Circuits wish to understand more about what professional firms are undertaking during this time they should contact one of the Surveyors’ Panel or alternatively their local contacts.

Vandalism

The following actions are suggested:

  • Notify the local police to report the crime 

  • Notify your property insurer of a potential claim, for example Methodist Insurance and Ecclesiastical

*Updated on 20 Oct 2020 to reflect new tier system

Covid-19 Funding (10 August*)

Funding and fundraising advice from the VCSE sector during COVID-19:

UK Community Foundations - Postcode search to find local Community Foundation, to view funding opportunities during COVID-19.

The National Lottery Community Fund - List of National Lottery funding opportunities and the changes to their programmes due to COVID-19.

Charity Finance Group Guidance - CFG provides financial management advice & support to the VCSE sector. This page sets out its COVID-19 guidance to charities.

Covid-19 Funders - Page produced by London Funders, the membership body for funders and investors in London’s civil society. Page brings together advice for funders during Covid-19.

Fundraising Regulator Events Guidance - this page sets out the Fundraising Regulator’s advice on fundraising during COVID-19.

Charities Aid Foundation - Hub for the latest funding and resources to help charities and other social sector organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Government Intiatives 
The Chancellor announced a temporary VAT relief to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, cafés and similar premises across the UK, as well as for accommodation and attractions.  From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, the reduced (5%) rate of VAT will apply to these supplies subject to meeting the criteria set out in the guidance.  Charities that provide holiday accommodation or hospitality and manage cafés and restaurants should ensure that they are aware of the planned changes.

There is also the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme, which a church café may consider.  
 

Grants Online is the UK's most comprehensive and up to date UK grant funding information service. Updated on a daily basis, Grants Online informs you of grant funding opportunities from the European Union, UK Government Agencies, the Lottery as well as Grant Making Trusts & Foundations.  A number of organisations have launched funding schemes to mitigate the effects and impact of the Coronavirus locally.  We expect that the number of such grant schemes will increase over the next few weeks. Information on these schemes can be found here

Fundraising Support during Covid-19 & Beyond
During this uncertain time, Ecclesiastical want to provide you with the help and advice that you need to continue to protect your church and its community. These resources are designed to be helpful both now and into the future as our communities come back together.  Topics include:

Civil Society

The Civil Society has collated a list of grant funding for charities during the outbreak.  Click here to view the details.  

Heritage Alliance (of which the Methodist Church is a member) has produced COVID-19 Guidance for the Heritage Sector. This includes a Covid 19 Guidance Hub and Covid-19 Funding Hub which outlines the advice and sources of national and regional funding to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The Arts Council has announced the availability of grants up to the value of £35k to help with urgent operational costs following loss of income, including:

  • rent or other building costs
  • staff costs
  • overheads such as utilities, insurance etc.
  • costs associated with keeping your organisation operational over the next six months

You must have experience of delivering work that was funded (directly or indirectly) by bodies such as Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, National Lottery Community Fund, local authorities, universities, public sector bodies, trusts and foundations, libraries, etc. Your organisation needs to have been part of the delivery of publicly funded work, even if they didn’t directly apply for the funding themselves. Application can be made via online application forms. Further guidance can be found here.

The NLCF has been chosen to administer a large part of the money the government has made available to frontline charities. This is not likely to be relevant to most churches. However, churches are eligible for the Community Fund’s general funds. Although there is no dedicated emergency fund, all the funding decisions made for the next six months will be devoted to addressing the current crisis.

To reach those groups best placed to support their communities at this vital time they will prioritise faster payments for existing grant holders and applicants using the following criteria: 

  • activities specifically geared to supporting communities through this crisis
  • helping organisations overcome any liquidity issues caused by COVID19.

Projects must address one or more of the three strategic priorities:

  1. bringing people together and build strong relationships in and across communities
  2. improving the places and spaces that matter to communities
  3. helping more people to reach their potential, by supporting them at the earliest possible stage.

To find out about the open programmes click here

*Updated 10 Aug 2020 to add new links from the government

Looking After Empty Church Buildings

If a building continues to remain empty, then there are a few simple steps to take to ensure ongoing security, safety and condition of the property.  These include:

  1. Weekly Inspection - An individual from  property team (or individuals on a rota basis) to visit once a week to make an internal and external inspection.  
  2. Communication - Ensure that communication is maintained between parties and that local Circuit and District policies are adhered to during this time.  As well, be aware of lone working practices and government guidance on social distancing. 

  3. Security - Ensure that all perimeter fences/railings/gates, security lighting and other deterrents to thieves (particularly lead theft) are maintained or repaired.   Ensure that all CCTV is working and notices are in place.  Smaller rural churches might check if local neighbours, neighbourhood watch or wider CCTV coverage can be asked to also monitor the property (where practical).

  4. Outside the building - Check the gutters, flashings, downpipes and gullies are not blocked/damaged from ground level and where practical.  Check for any break-ins or vandalism.  
  5. Church grounds - If the grass is mowed using the church's equipment, it should be sanitised after use.   

    Caring for God's Acre has some advice on allowing natural wild flowers and how to minimising the amount of mowing that is needed.

  6. Inside the building - check for any leaks to the mains water supply, other pipes running through out the building and the heating radiators/pipes.  As well, it is advisable to run the hot and cold taps for 5 minutes in order to prevent legionella.  If a manse is empty, it is recommended to remove shower heads as well. 

  7. Heating - It would be beneficial to ensure that some heating is retained in the building to avoid any issues with pipes bursting.  A minimum of 7° Celsius is recommended.  
  8. Weekly Checks - If the fire alarm or fire detection system is normally checked weekly, then test it.  If there is a mechanical organ, it would beneficial to play for 15 minutes to keep the moving parts clean and from sticking (see below for detailed steps).  
  9. Post - Collect the post if not redirection or suspended. 
  10. Leaving - When leaving the church, ensure that all doors, windows and other points of access are secured.

If you have any concerns, please liaise with your District Property Secretary or Circuit Property Steward.   

Organs

For a church with a larger or mechanically complex organ, prolonged lack of use will result in long-term problems with its performance.  If an organist is available in the neighbourhood, then they can practise to keep all the action parts moving.  If an organist is not available, then the person performing the weekly inspection could carrying out the following steps:

  1. Switch the organ on (consult with your regular organist, as every instrument is different)
  2. Pull out all the stops (or press them down, if the instrument has stop tabs)
  3. One at a time, press every key (black and white) on each keyboard of the instrument, and all of the pedals. Note that the organ operates differently from a piano; keys should be pressed rather than struck.
  4. If any faults occur, such as notes not sounding, or continuing to sound after the key has been released, make a note and consult with your organist or organ tuner.
  5. Cancel all stops by pushing them in (or up for stop tabs).
  6. Switch off the organ.

The purpose of this is to run through all the stops on all keyboards, and the pedalboard to keep leatherwork from sticking and keep electrical contacts clean. 

Vandalism

The following actions are suggested:

  • Notify the local police to report the crime 

  • Notify your property insurer of a potential claim, for example Methodist Insurance and Ecclesiastical

Bats

If your church is known to have bats, then hopefully surfaces will have been covered.  Ideally a church building with bats that affect worship areas will not be open to anyone until it has had a thorough clean, which will have to wait until multiple people are able to safely enter, and appropriate PPE has been sourced.

Any works carried out will be subject to the usual legislation relating to bat conservation and if the trustees are concerned about its bat population then do call the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228

*Updated 10 December 2020

 

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