Coronavirus Guidance for Property

Update 16 June 2021

The government has updated the Guidance for Weddings & Civil Partnerships in England following the Prime Minister's announcement.  It states:

From 21 June, there will  no longer be a maximum number cap for attendees set out in law. Instead, the number of attendees at weddings, civil partnerships and receptions will be determined by how many people the venue or space can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. This will be based on the COVID-19 risk assessment of the venue or outdoor space, and the measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.  

For further information, please refer to the government Guidance for Weddings & Civil Partnerships.  Please note that this is only for England.  

Update 17 May 2021

The government has updated the Safe Use of Places of Worship to include details of how restrictions will be lifted for churches in England.   As more information is released, we will update the information below.  The key changes involved in each of the remaining Steps include:

Step 3 - 17 May 2021  (link to poster)

  • Most other significant life events can resume, limited to no more than 30 people. This will include events such as private baptisms, and naming ceremonies. Limits at weddings, wedding receptions, wakes and other commemorative events will be increased to 30 people.
  • Funerals will have no legal cap on the number of people who can attend. The number of attendees will be determined by how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place.
  • Outdoors most legal restrictions on meeting others will be lifted - although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal unless otherwise exempt.
  • Support groups and parent and child group gathering limits will increase to 30 people (not including under 5s).

COVID Secure rules, including social distancing requirements, continue to apply in the workplace, and in businesses and public venues.

New guidance on meeting friends and family emphasises personal responsibility rather than government rules.  Social distancing (staying at least 2m away from others) helps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The further away you can keep from other people, and the less time you spend in close contact with them, the less likely you are to catch COVID-19 and pass it on to others.  Close contact, including hugging, increases the risk of spreading COVID-19.

You should consider the guidance on risks associated with COVID-19 and actions you can take to help keep you and your loved ones safe. Please refer to the guidance on meeting friends and family for further information and the actions to take to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Face Coverings

In England, face coverings are required by law to be worn in places of worship.  There are valid exemptions for some individuals and groups to not wear a face covering in these settings.  In particular, those who are leading permitted services or events in a place of worship, and those who assist them.  Please refer to the guidance on the wearing of face coverings at a place of work and the guidance on face coverings.

Food and Drink

Where food or drink (‘consumables’) are essential to the act of worship, they can be used.  Hospitality spaces within a place of worship, such as cafes, are permitted to open both inside and outside and managers should follow hospitality guidance.  People may also provide their own food and drink at a place of worship but should ensure actions are taken to reduce the risk of transmission.

When consuming food and drink people should remain seated and take steps to minimise any risk of infection. People should not touch communal or shared objects, or handle items other than their own (for example, avoid the use of shared cutlery, dishes or service sheets).  

Singing, Chanting and the Use of Musical Instruments

Where singing takes place, it should follow the principles of safer singing.

  • Indoors: a group of up to 6 amateur singers can perform, or rehearse for performance with social distancing being maintained at all times. There is no limit on the number of professional singers but they should follow guidance on performing arts.  Performances should take place at the front of the place of worship to a seated audience.  Indoor communal singing should not take place.

  • Outdoors: When worship takes place outdoors, the congregation may join in with singing in multiple groups of up to 30.  Congregation members should continue to follow social distancing rules.  For guidance on singing outdoors outside of acts of communal worship, please refer to the performing arts guidance.

Outdoor Worship

The law allows for multiple groups, each consisting of up to 30 people, to pray with the grounds of a place of worship or its grounds.  Participants should continue to follow wider social distancing guidance.  A risk assessment must be undertaken and COVID-19 Secure measures implemented. The number of people able to gather will therefore be dependent on the size of the space available.  Please refer to Safe Use of Places of Worship for further information.  

Step 4 - no earlier than 21 June

At Step 4, which will take place no earlier than 21 June, the government aims to remove all limits on life cycle events and other gatherings. This will be subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme, which will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events of larger sizes. The pilots have been selected to examine a range of settings, venue types, and activity types (e.g. seated or not, indoor/outdoor etc) so that the data is generalisable and findings can inform thinking on the reopening of similar settings across multiple sectors.  This guidance will be updated as new guidance from the government is released ahead of that Step 4.

Further details for Step 3

For the remainder of Step 3, places of worship in England may open for the following purposes:

Activity England 


Private Prayer and Communal Worship

From Step 3, in line with indoor social contact limits individuals, groups of six, or larger groups where everyone present is from the same two households may attend. A ‘household’ can include a linked support bubble, where eligible.

The number of individuals or groups permitted in a place of worship at any one time will be dependent on the size of the building and ability to socially distance therein.

Limits for communal worship should be decided on the basis of the capacity of the place of worship following an assessment of risk. From Step 3, in line with indoor social contact limits, individuals may attend communal worship in groups of 6, or larger groups where everyone present is from the same 2 households.

Funerals 

From Step 3, there will be no set numerical limit on the number of people who can attend a funeral. Instead, the number of attendees at a funeral will be determined by how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place.  Please refer to COVID-19: guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic.

Social distancing (staying at least 2m away from others) helps to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The further away you can keep from other people, and the less time you spend in close contact with them, the less likely you are to catch COVID-19 and pass it on to others. Close contact, including hugging, increases the risk of spreading COVID-19.

You should consider the guidance on risks associated with COVID-19 and actions you can take to help keep you and your loved ones safe. Please refer to the guidance on meeting friends and family for further information and the actions to take to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19.

Commemorative events to celebrate the life of a person who has died

 

These activities include the scattering of ashes and stone setting ceremonies. Such events and must have no more than 30 people in attendance. Anyone working is not included as part of the 30 person limit.  Please refer to COVID-19: guidance for managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic.

Significant life events, outside of marriage ceremonies and funerals

 

Where such events are an element of communal worship, they are subject to the requirements for communal worship set out above. When not taking place as part of regular communal worship, from Step 3 standalone life events can take place with up to 30 people. Anyone working is not included as part of the 30 person limit.  Please refer to the guidance on the Safe Use of Places of Worship.  

Weddings and wedding receptions

 

There will be no set numerical limit on the number of people who can attend a wedding. Instead, the number of attendees will be determined by how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. Please refer to the guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships. 

Broadcasting or Filming Worship

Broadcasting or filming an act of worship should only involve those people essential for the content of the service, and for technical support to enable people to watch and worship online or via a television or radio.  If musicians or singers usually form part of the act of worship, they may participate.  

Essential Voluntary and Public services

A place of worship may be used for essential voluntary and public services such as the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions, or support in an emergency. See COVID-19 guidance for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations.

Support Groups

Support groups can take place in gatherings of up to 30 (subject to capacity) in a COVID-19 secure community facility if organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend its meetings.  Those working as part of the group are not counted towards the limit of 30.  Examples of support groups include those that provide support to:

  • Parent and toddler groups up to 30 people (not counting those under the age of 5)
  • Weight loss programs
  • New parents
  • Those who have suffered bereavement
  • Those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable
  • Vulnerable young people, including to enable them to meet youth workers
  • Victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
  • Those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
  • Those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender

Please refer to the Safe Use of Multi-Purpose Facilities for more information.  

Children and Youth Activities

Out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers can offer provisions to all children, without restriction on the reason for which they may attend, both indoor and outdoor.

Out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers operating from a place of worship should follow the protective measures outlined in this guidance, as well as the guidance on holiday or after-school clubs.

Please refer to the Protective Measures for Out of School and Holiday Club Settings or the National Youth Agency Covid-19 Guidance for further information.  For more information on pre-schools, please refer to the Guidance for Early Years Education

Indoor Sport and Leisure Activities 

Indoor leisure facilities may open for you to exercise on your own, in groups of up to 6 people or in a group of any size from up to 2 households.  Please refer to the guidance on grassroots sports and dance classes should also consider the performing arts guidance.  

Extra-curricular Activities and Coffee Mornings


People can visit indoor venues in a group of up to 6 people from different households or a larger group of any size from up to 2 households including support bubbles.  Please refer to the Safe Use of Multi-Purpose Facilities for more information. 

Church cafes Can open for both indoor and outdoor seating.  Please refer to Working Safely in Restaurants and Cafes for more information.  
Non-essential retail (charity shops, etc) Retail shops are open.  Please refer to the Working Safely in Shops for more information.  
Church council meetings


Church council meetings can meet face to face to fulfil their legal duty, but only if it is reasonably necessary, and there are no alternative options.  Those in attendance must  adhere to the rule of 6 people or 2 households indoors, or 30 people outdoors.  Please refer to the safety precautions listed in the Guidance for Church Councils.  

 
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 will give further details.

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

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

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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