Latest Guidance 23rd September 2020
I thought I would share with you the latest guidance from the URC – you will be aware this changes quite frequently but has not been fully updated after yesterday’s announcements. The bit that I understand that is likely to be strengthened is the guidance to meet virtually for meetings – this is already Southern Synod policy and we were told yesterday this will be in force for the next six months.
Download the latest advice from the URC about the Test & Trace app and the QR code poster. All churches should generate and display an official NHS Test & Protect QR code poster from September 24th. Currently, the Governments in England and Wales are strongly encouraging places of worship amongst others to display the QR Code poster, rather than requiring it. The United Reformed Church strongly encourages churches in England and Wales that are open for any purpose to comply with this.
There is some confusion as to which aspects of Church life are impacted by the new ‘rule of 6’. Voluntary and charitable organisations are exempt. This means that meetings and activities of church life are allowed to take place as long as they take place in a COVID Secure building with appropriate social distancing. Worship can continue as well as the various meetings of church life that help keep our work going, including Elders’ and Church Meetings. Many churches may find that the requirements of a COVID secure building, and the desire of people to be cautious mean that church meetings might best continue virtually. Click on this link to the government guidance on meeting together safely. You will notice that many of the activities that might normally take place in our buildings, in terms of groups we let space to, are also exempt and therefore lettings to such groups can continue where the building is COVID Secure and their activity compliant with relevant legislation and guidance.
In England, a group of six can come from mutliple households; in Scotland, a group of six can come from two households, and in Wales, no more than six from the ‘extended household’.
Churches offering activities for children and young people need to be clear about whether they should be classed as worship, education, organised sport or social. Anything that legitimately falls into the social category, for example toddler groups, youth clubs etc, must abide by the restrictions for social gatherings, even if they are happening in a place of worship.
The key points are:
- Education establishments to remain open at present (this is assumed to include pre-schools subject to details);
- Community & church cafés should only operate a table service and close by 10pm; NB these are separate rules to offering hospitality after a service which is still discouraged – For a worship service, there are Government restrictions on the consumption of food and drink unless part of an act of worship
- All staff and customers in community and church cafes, charity shops, etc will now have to wear a face covering (unless seated for eating/drinking where relevant);
- In many sectors, which might include projects run through churches, working to Covid-secure guidelines will now be a legal obligation;
- Weddings will only be able to have a maximum of 15 people (down from 30) attending the service and reception afterwards;
- Funeral numbers allowed to attend remain unchanged at 30 people;
- Currently new shielding measures for those who are more vulnerable remain unchanged at present;
- Places of Worship are allowed to remain open
We can but try and keep up with all the nuanced changes and I will let you know more if I hear more (though I confess it all hurts my head sometimes so happy reading) . The main message from yesterday is that these rules are likely to be in place for many months so the idea we just “hibernate” and then pick up where we left off is not really an option. We have to think about our sense of mission over this winter.
The buildings may be closed, but the churches are very much open and active! Have a look below to see what we’re up to!
Keeping in touch newsletter
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A joint service between all three churches is held every Sunday at 7pm. On Zoom. We’d love for you to join us!
Paws for Thought
Why not join Richard Cannam, Pastoral Worker at United Emmanuel and his four-legged friend with a waggly tail for some random thoughts on life as a Christian. Click here to visit his YouTube Channel (link opens in a new tab).