The Government has confirmed that there will be no blanket closure of places of worship. The latest guidance states: “Places of worship play an important role in providing spiritual leadership for many individuals, and in bringing communities and generations together. However, their communal nature also makes them places that are particularly vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).” Research to date indicates that the new virus variant is as well controlled by social distancing and mitigations as the old. Local Authorities can enforce closure in particular circumstances where there is evidence of lack of Covid security or ask for places of worship to close in response to rising local infection levels.
Each place of worship should evaluate their own local situation and examine all factors that could affect the good Covid security demonstrated by places of worship so far. This is to include (but is not limited to):
Please be reminded that, in order to maintain Covid safety, liturgies should not be prolonged. The homily should be brief, to minimise the time that people are congregated in the church building. The Prayer of the Faithful should be omitted. Please remember that incense should not be used at present, and singing should be avoided (see further guidance below). Members of the congregation should continue to wear face coverings (unless exempt), to use hand sanitiser when entering and leaving the church and maintain social distancing. When visiting a place of worship, people should avoid travelling outside their local area.
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:
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).
Prayer or study groups in person.
Lifestyle and leisure/recreational groups such as craft groups or exercise groups. Amateur choir practice or group bell ringing.
Tourism and shops contained within the place of worship.
In addition to this summary, there are other key changes:
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.
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 find further updates on the Bishops' Conference website here.