Faith, worship, funerals and bereavement

Reopening places of worship

Updated 17 August 2020

Places of worship can now open for individual prayer, congregational use and other permitted uses. Not all places of worship will be open as they may be unable to do so safely. Some may have reduced hours or other changes.

Ceremonies

Ceremonies including marriages, funerals and other life cycle rites can now take place with limited numbers. No more than 30 people should attend ceremonies (unless a life cycle rite takes place during routine communal worship). Strict social distancing should be maintained, so some venues may need to limit numbers further.

See changes to births ceremonies and deaths services in Essex for more information.

Preparing to reopen

See government advice on reopening your place of worship published on 4 July for full guidance.

Here is a summary for venue managers of some things you should do to prepare your place of worship for re-opening:

  • only re-open when you consider it safe to do so

  • consider the health and safety of employees and volunteers. Think about individual risk assessments to ensure it is safe for each of them to return and give training on anything they may need to do to keep people safe

  • carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment of your venue

  • consider how fair and equal access can be provided for all users in line with government guidance and the Equality Act 2010

  • take action to minimise the potential for spreading COVID-19 and all possible steps to secure the safety of the public. Actions include:

    • cleaning the venue - see government guidance on cleaning of non-healthcare settings.
    • ensuring that gathering limits are adhered to
    • adaptations such as reducing capacity, planning entrances and exits, marking areas that should not be used, closing off non-essential spaces, creating one-way systems and installing screens or barriers
    • removing communal resources such as prayer mats or service sheets
  • consider the impact of many venues re-opening in a small area and work with others to limit the number of people travelling or gathering at the same time

  • although the latest government guidance allows less social distance, we strongly advise that your plans for re-opening keep people two metres apart

  • we continue to recommend use of online prayer services and resources, to assist those who are unable to attend in person

  • you may also wish to consult with your national faith organisation or landlord for further advice and guidance

Test and trace

In line with government guidance for all venues, places of worship should keep a temporary record of visitors so the NHS Test and Trace service can contact people who come into close contact with somebody who has COVID-19. Test and Trace currently defines close contact as two people being with two metres of each other for 15 minutes or more.

Advice for faith communities

Whilst you may be keen to return to your usual place of worship, you should only attend when it is safe for you to do so. The advice is:

  • if you or anyone in your household has or shows symptoms of COVID-19, do not visit a place of worship. Stay at home
  • if you are over 70 or vulnerable, you should take particular care to adhere to social distancing and minimise contact with others outside your household
  • if you are shielding because you are extremely vulnerable, you should maintain strict social distancing, remain cautious and stay at home where possible
  • from 8 August you must wear a face covering in a place of worship, unless you are exempt. You must also wear one on public transport, in shops and in many other indoor public spaces. Religious garments such as the Niqab are acceptable but must fit securely round the side of the face. See the government guidance on face coverings for details
  • indoor facilities for young children, such as creches and toys, will not be available
  • your usual place of worship may choose to open later than 4 July, or not be able to open safely at all
  • opening and service times may have changed. Check these details before you travel
  • avoid sharing food and using communal vessels
  • services may be shortened, rituals adapted and communal resources such as prayer mats and service sheets removed from use
  • avoid singing, chanting, shouting, raising your voice or playing a musical instrument you have to blow into as there is a possible increased risk of transmitting COVID-19 from aerosol or droplets
  • Small groups of professional or non-professional singers are able to sing in front of worshippers both outdoors and indoors from 15 August. See the new government guidance on singing, chanting and music.

Links to guidance from faith groups

Catholic Church England and Wales's guidance for collective worship
Church of England's guidance for churches and the Diocese of Chelmsford to find out what local churches are doing. You can also visit A Church Near You to find a local church.
Hindu Council UK's principles for safely reopening for permitted activity
Mosques and Immans National Advisory Board's reopening guidance
Network of Sikh Organisation's advice for reopening gurdwaras
United Synagogues guidance for reopening buildings and restarting services.

Other contacts

Faith Action is a national network of faith-based and community organisations.

To contact Essex Resilience Forum’s Faith & Communities Tactical Co-ordination Group, email: faith.communities@essex.gov.uk

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