Methodist Church Coronavirus Official Guidance : Updated 30 Mar

Latest updated information

Update 30 March 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:

From Step 1- 29 March (link to roadmap poster)

  • Up to 6 people, or two households, can gather outdoors including in private gardens
  • Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can take place with up to 6 people
  • Funerals remain limited to 30 people
  • Wakes are limited to 6 people
  • Singing Indoors: – a single small group of singers will be allowed to perform, or rehearse for performance, only where essential to an act of communal worship. This should be limited to as few singers as possible, with social distancing being maintained at all times. Communal singing should not take place.
  • Singing Outdoors, in the grounds or the outside space of a place of worship: When communal worship takes place outdoors, the congregation may join in with singing, and should follow the principles set out in the performing arts guidance. People can gather in groups of up to six or two households.  A ‘household’ can include a linked support bubble.

From Step 2 – no earlier than 12 April

  • Funerals remain limited to 30 people
  • Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies, wakes and wedding receptions and wakes are limited to 15 people
  • Church council meetings can be held in the building
  • Children and youth activities are allowed

From Step 3 – no earlier than 17 May

  • Up to 6 people, or two households, can gather indoors
  • Most significant life cycle events can resume, limited to no more than 30 people. This will include events such as weddings, wakes, private baptisms, naming ceremonies and stone setting ceremonies
  • Wedding receptions can also proceed with up to 30 people

Step 4 – no earlier than 21 June

At Step 4, 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.

Further details for Step 1

For the remainder of Step 1, places of worship in England may open for the following purposes:

ActivityEngland 

Individual Prayer
A person, or single household, which may include an existing support bubble where eligible, entering the venue to pray on their own. The number of individuals or households 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.
Communal Worship & Prayer 
Limits for communal worship should be decided on the basis of the capacity of the place of worship following an assessment of risk.
Broadcasting or Filming WorshipAttending a place of worship for broadcasting or filming an act of worship is permitted but should only involve those people working or volunteering who are 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 that is being broadcast, they may participate. The numbers or people involved should be kept as small as possible to minimise risks and participants should follow social distancing guidance.
Wedding Ceremonies Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included. Please refer to the guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships. 
Wedding Receptions 
Are not permitted 
Funerals Funerals must have no more than 30 people.  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.
Post-death Commemorative EventsThese are events which commemorate or mark the deceased’s passing. Examples include the scattering of ashes and stone setting ceremonies. Such events must have no more than 6 people in attendance. Anyone working is not included as part of the 6 person limit. These limits on attendance do not typically apply to communal worship services, where prayers for the deceased may be said.
Other Standalone Life-Cycle Ceremonies Where such events are an element of communal worship they may continue, but they are subject to the requirements for communal worship set out above.
Childcare and educationThese activities are permitted to continue indoors where the provision is for: vulnerable children and young people all other children, where the provision is one of the following: reasonably necessary to enable their parents and carers to work, search for work, undertake education or training, or attend a medical appointment or address a medical need, or attend a support group being used by electively home educating parents as part of their arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education being used as part of their efforts to obtain a regulated qualification, meet the entry requirements for an education institution, or to undertake exams and assessments where the place of worship is used as part of a school. numbers should be limited to the number of people who can safely socially distance in the venue in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance. See guidance for providers of out-of-school settings for more information on group sizes and other protective measures. Outdoor provision for all children is also permitted from 29 March, without restrictions on the purpose for which they may attend.
Essential Voluntary and Public servicesThese will include 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 GroupsSupport groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. They must not take place in a private home.  Examples include support to: victims of crime (including domestic abuse) those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour new parents those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender those who have suffered bereavement vulnerable young people, including to enable them to meet youth workers The limit of 15 does not include children under 5 who are accompanying a parent or guardian. Anyone working would also not be included.
Church cafesRemain closed unless providing a takeaway service (until 11pm).
Non-essential retail (charity shops, etc)Remain closed.
Church council meetingsShould be held remotely
Children and Youth ActivitiesSeparate activities are not permitted 

Update 4 March 2021

Although the announcement was made for the roadmap out of lockdown in England, the guidance for churches has not changed because churches have been allowed to remain open during this latest lockdown.  Thus, the guidance listed below is current until the government makes changes to guidance for the Safe Use of Places of Worship or the Safe Use of Multi-Purpose Facilities.  

However, the guidance for Out of School Settings has been updated, which may impact some churches.   From 8 March 2021, providers should only offer indoor and outdoor face-to-face provision for:

  • Vulnerable children and young people
  • Reasonably necessary to enable their parents and carers to work, search for work, undertake education or training, or attend a medical appointment or address a medical need, or attend a support group
  • Being used by electively home educating parents as part of their existing arrangements for their child to receive a suitable full-time education
  • Being used as part of their efforts to obtain a regulated qualification, meet the entry requirements for an education institution, or to undertake exams and assessments

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.  

ActivityEngland 

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 GroupsIf 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 cafesMust close unless providing a takeaway service (until 11pm).
Non-essential retail (charity shops, etc)Must close
Community BuildingsMust 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.

Update 20 December 2020

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on 19 December 2020 a number of significant changes have been made to restrictions during the Christmas Period and for the rest of 2020.  This comes into effect from 20 December 2020.

There are now four Tiers of restrictions across England, with Communal Worship still allowed in all four tiers, but with different restrictions for mixing and attendance in each.  Please follow the links below to read the guidance for each Tier:

Tier 1 (Medium): Tier 1: Medium alert – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Tier 2 (High): Tier 2: High alert – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Tier 3 (Very High): Tier 3: Very High alert – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Tier 4 (Stay at Home): Tier 4: Stay at Home – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

A Full list of local restriction tiers by area – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) can be found through this link.

The government has also updated its Guidance for the Christmas period – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) in England, including its Making a Christmas bubble with friends and family – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk), please refer to this for specific restrictions on Christmas Day.

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 guidance on different groups using the site.

Please note this is for England only so please check the websites for ScotlandWalesIsle of Man and the Channel Islands (Guernsey & Jersey), for specific local changes.

Update 10 December 2020*

The government has published Guidance for the Christmas Period in England, which includes a section on Carol Singing.  Carol singing is allowed indoors & outdoors by professional and amateur choirs.  Additionally, the congregation can join in singing outdoors if the precautions listed in the Performing Arts guidance and the Principles for Safer Singing are followed.  This includes maintaining 2m distance between groups and ensuring that attendees can arrive & depart safely from the venue.  

As well, we have published Guidance for Christmas Celebrations to assist with planning and preparations for the Christmas season.  You can also listen to an interview with Stephen Hetherington,  the Director of Property Support,  about guidelines for the Christmas period. * 0.00 10.15

Lastly, the government has posted more details for Tier 1 (Medium), Tier 2 (High) and Tier 3 (Very High).  Other government updates include the Safe Use of Places of Worship and the Safe Use of Multi-Purpose Facilities, which gives guidance on different groups using the site.  

Please note this is for England only and please check the websites for Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (Guernsey & Jersey).  

Update 1 December 2020

The government has published Guidance for the Christmas Period in England, which includes a section on Carol Singing.  Carol singing is allowed indoors & outdoors by professional and amateur choirs.  Additionally, the congregation can join in singing outdoors if the precautions listed in the Performing Arts guidance and the Principles for Safer Singing are followed.  This includes maintaining 2m distance between groups and ensuring that attendees can arrive & depart safely from the venue.  

As well, we have published Guidance for Christmas Celebrations to assist with planning and preparations for the Christmas season.  

Lastly, the government has posted more details for Tier 1 (Medium), Tier 2 (High) and Tier 3 (Very High).  Other government updates include the Safe Use of Places of Worship and the Safe Use of Multi-Purpose Facilities, which gives guidance on different groups using the site.  

Please note this is for England only and please check the websites for Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands (Guernsey & Jersey).  

Update 25 November 2020

The Prime Minister has announced that England will be returning to a Local Restriction Tiers system from 2 December 2020.  Read more about the details for each tier and view or printposters for each tier level.    

Most of the guidelines will be familiar as they will be broadly the same as before the national lockdown was implemented in November.  However, some adjustments will be made to improve on managing the transmission risks.  The key thing to note is that communal worship will be able to restart from 2 December in all Local Restriction Tiers

Please note  that wherever a gathering can take place, social distancing of 2m should still be strictly maintained between anyone who doesn’t live together or are not in a ‘support bubble.’    

ActivityMedium
Tier 1
High
Tier 2
Very High
Tier 3
Communal Prayer Open for as many people as can be safely accommodated with social distancing measures 
Communal Worship Can attend and interact in groups of up to 6 people from different households** Can only interact indoors with your own households** but outdoors can interact in groups of up to 6 peopleCan only interact with your own household** both indoors and outdoors  
Wedding Ceremonies Can take place with up to 15 attendees* 
Wedding Receptions Can take place with up to 15 attendees* Can take place with up to 15 attendees*Cannot take place 
Funerals Can take place with up to 30 attendees *
Post-death Commemorative Events
Can take place with up to 15 attendees *
Other Standalone Life-Cycle Ceremonies (not part of communal worship)Can attend and interact in groups of up to 6 people from different households** Can only interact indoors with your own households**, but outdoors can interact in groups of up to 6 peopleCan only interact with your own household** both indoors 
and outdoors  
Supervised Activities for Children (including Sunday school)Can take place with no limit on the number of children permitted to attend, following COVID-Secure guidance. Adults must ensure social distancing at all times. 

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

Please note this is for England only and please check local restrictions for:

Update 12 November 2020

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

Update 5 November 2020

The new National Restrictions are now in effect from 5 November 2020  in England.*  
As part of these new restrictions, places of worship and their ancillary accommodation will have to close or remain closed for congregational worship and all other user groups, except for the following:

  • Individual Prayer
  • To broadcast acts of worship
  • Funerals (a maximum of 30 close family & friends can attend)
  • Formal childcare or where part of a school (including OFSTED registered early years settings)
  • Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks
  • Support Groups  
  • Place of work where the work cannot be carried out at home 
  • Repairs or construction work that is being undertaken
  • Community cafés providing a take-away service only

Unfortunately wedding ceremonies will not be permitted to take place.

Full details of all the restrictions can be found here  and a poster can be downloaded
In addition, the legislation can be read here

Update 3 November 2020

We have received a few queries regarding Remembrance Sunday.  The government has stated that as an exemption from the new National Restrictions (subject to Commons vote on Wednesday), a service of remembrance can only take place outdoors around a cenotaph.  Therefore, no congregational services can take place on church grounds but ministers can broadcast a service virtually.  More information can be found here.  

Update 2 November 2020

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on 31 October, it has been confirmed that new National Restrictions will be brought into effect from 5 November 2020  (subject to a Commons vote on Wednesday) in England.*  
As part of these new restrictions, places of worship and their ancillary accommodation will have to close or remain closed for congregational worship and all other user groups, except for the following:

  • Individual Prayer
  • To broadcast acts of worship
  • Funerals (a maximum of 30 close family & friends can attend)
  • Formal childcare or where part of a school (including OFSTED registered early years settings)
  • Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks
  • Support Groups  (click here to view the guidance)
  • Place of work where the work cannot be carried out at home 
  • Repairs or construction work that is being undertaken
  • Community cafés providing a take-away service only

Unfortunately wedding ceremonies will not be permitted to take place.

Full details of all the restrictions can be found here.  

Until 5 November, the restrictions under the 3 tier system should be followed.  After 5 November, the National Restrictions will take precedence until they are lifted.  We will expect more details to follow over the coming week.  All such updates will be posted on the Methodist website, Signpost for Ministry, TMCP website and the usual communications channels (including social media) as they are made available.

*Please note this is for England only and please check local restrictions for Scotland and Wales.

Update 20 October 2020

The Welsh government has announced a Firebreak.  During this time, places of worship are closed to the public, except for those invited to a wedding or funeral and for those broadcasting a worship service.  Click here to read more.  

The English government guidance on the Safe Use of Places of Worship has been updated to  include a useful summary of restrictions for specific activities in each tier level.  The Guide for Using Your Worship Space has been amend to reflect the Covid-19 Alert Level tier system.  Updates have been made to the Guide to Managing Your Church Building.  This guide is designed to assist in preparing for conducting a Covid-19 Risk Assessment (Word) or (pdf version).  The HSE has also produced a sample risk assessment that may be of assistance.  

For information regarding local lockdown in Scotland, click here.  

Update 13 October 2020

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

Read more