The latest COVID-19 guidance for parishes.

January 13, 2020

England has entered a new period of lockdown with people encouraged to work from home wherever possible and schools and colleges closed. The Government's Places of Worship Guidance was updated on 11th January and can be found here.

The general approach of the guidance is an extension of the previous rules in place under Tier 4 in December. However, it has been amended to reflect the new national restrictions. These restrictions:

  • require people to stay at home, except for specific purposes;
  • prevent people gathering with those they do not live with, except for specific purposes;
  • ·require certain businesses to close.

Attending a place of worship is one of the very few legal exemptions that allow larger numbers to gather in the same venue.

To keep everyone safe, where places of worship choose to open it is crucial that those attending comply with the law and COVID-19 Secure guidance. The following activities should not take place at the present time:

1) Baptisms or other ceremonies which mark significant life cycle moments but which do not take place as an established part of normal communal worship (with the exception of commemorative events that celebrate the life of a person who has died – see the detailed guidance on this in the full document).

2) Prayer or study groups in person.

3) Lifestyle and leisure/recreational groups such as craft groups or exercise groups.

4) Amateur choir practice or group bell ringing.

5) Tourism and shops contained within the place of worship.

In addition to this summary, there are other key changes:

1) Revised wording on weddings to highlight the consideration that is required from those participating about whether the circumstance is exceptional in order to proceed at this time.

2) National guidance strongly suggests that singing should only take place where it is essential to the act of worship. Since every effort should be made not to lengthen the time for Mass unnecessarily, it will be appropriate for the time being not to have music at Mass or any other liturgy. This includes recorded music, if it extends the time taken for the celebration.

You can access up to date COVID-19 guidance for parishes on the Bishops' Conference website.