As churches continue to welcome members of your congregation back into your space, there is special guidance you must follow to reduce the rate of transmission of COVID-19. Keeping in mind that COVID-19 is transmitted primarily via respiratory droplets, there are special considerations to keep in mind regarding certain actions that traditionally take place during your Sunday Service, including music and modes of communication.
To help you prepare for each Sunday, we’ve gathered some useful information about what you may need to do to follow guidelines provided by the Places of Worship Taskforce.
Considerations and responsibilities for opening your physical location
As the venue managers of a place of worship, it is within your discretion to determine when it is safe to open or if you must remain closed if, for any reason, you cannot safely adhere to the guidelines.
Places of worship also have a duty, according to the guidelines, to be aware of their responsibilities as employers under health and safety laws. A duty of care to volunteers. And a duty to give consideration to providing fair and equal access for all members of your congregation who are unable to safely undertake faith practises in line with the guidelines under the Equality Act 2010.
The guidelines also require you to complete a risk assessment prior to opening any past or new physical location. Failure to complete a risk assessment that accounts for COVID-19 could make up a breach of Health & Safety legislation.
Places of worship are encouraged to continue to stream worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
Prepare the physical location prior to Sunday Services
There is lengthy documentation provided by the Church of England and the NHS that details every consideration. As a helpful guide, we’ve included some of these protocols to prepare your space to minimise contact prior to your services:
Consider how you use your space:
- Reconfigure spaces to enable worshippers for sitting rather than standing.
- Post clear signage to show guidelines such as hygiene. You can download posters on the eBug website.
- Require parishioners to wear masks or face coverings except in circumstances where the regulations do not apply, such as children under 11.
- Discourage the collection of cash donations. If you must accept cash donations, use a stationary receptacle.
- Introduce a one-way flow in and out of the premises with floor markings or signage.
- Announce departure protocols so that, at the end of worship, attendees leave one row at a time to prevent crowding.
- Use barriers, screens, or even alternative rooms and spaces to separate worshippers.
- Keep toilets open and carefully managed with clear signage to prevent queues and include visible hygiene guidelines.
- Make hand sanitiser readily available on entry and exit of any spaces in the building.
- Pre-wrap any consumables if using these as an essential act of worship.
- Use plexi-glass screens to protect worshippers for leaders who may perform singing or chanting as an essential part of service.
- Prepare the space for recordings of music as an alternative to live singing. Just remember to keep copyright laws in mind for the recorded version of your services.
Any changes to entrances, exits, and queues should consider reasonable adjustments to accommodate those who need them, such as worshippers with physical disabilities.
Prepare for additional cleanings of high touch areas
You can continue to use normal cleaning products to clean high touch areas more frequently. Pay particular attention to handles, railings, and similar surfaces. Also consider using disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces.
Keep a cleaning schedule with dates and times visible. This can help you track frequency and help assure members of your congregation that you are taking careful measures. It would be helpful to have a staff member designated to clean during the service.
Post service cleaning
Allow time for cleaning after the service. Pay particular attention to frequently used objects, surfaces, or spaces. Pay attention to areas that include doorways between the outside and inside spaces. Historic England has produced useful guidance for cleaning historic surfaces.
If possible, remove reusable and communal resources such as prayer mats, service sheets, religious texts or devotional material. Single use alternatives are an option. Otherwise, places of worship will want to keep a selection of clean books for individuals to use. Place these items in ‘quarantine clean’ for 48 hours after use.
Individuals may bring personal items to aid worship such as a prayer mat or religious text, strictly for personal use during a service.
With careful preparation, you can keep the health and hygiene of your space for your congregation and members of your clergy as safe as possible.
Note: This post was written based on the information shared as of July 20, 2020 by Public Health England. Please refer to updated guidance here to make sure you are up to date on the latest regulations.