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World News

Church of England releases Covid guidance in time for Monday's relaxation of rules

by Cara Bentley

The Church of England has released guidance on singing, children's groups and serving food ahead of Monday's changes in England. 

On 19th July, most legal restrictions, such as social distancing, in England are due to disappear, however many businesses have decided to still enforce mask wearing. 

The Church of England's House of Bishops has produced a document answering expected questions. 

 

Masks

The Church of England does not instruct churches to enforce mask-wearing but advises: "Although it will no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face covering, the government has stated that it 'expects and recommends' that people wear face coverings in crowded and enclosed settings to protect themselves and others.

"Churches may well decide to continue to ask people to use them and/or to maintain social distancing, especially during busy events. Although such a request will not be legally enforceable it can be positioned as a way of easing the transition back towards pre-pandemic ways of worshipping whilst showing consideration for others."

 

Singing 

The Church of England has confirmed that "Yes, from 19th July singing and musical performances of all kinds are allowed in churches, including congregational singing, and choirs and worship groups can perform without legal limitations."

It warns that singing or raised voices can increase the risk and that ventilation, singing outside or wearing a face covering would limit the risk. 

"Singing (and generally meeting) outdoors is a safer way of gathering, and where this is possible it could be a good alternative to meeting indoors."

Bell ringers are no longer restricted by social distancing either. 
 

Vaccine status 

The C of E guidance says: "It is not a requirement, nor is it appropriate, to ask people if they have been vaccinated."

There is also no legal requirement to show the NHS track and trace QR code from Monday, churches "may still choose to...but you do not have to."

 

Different services 

The Church says different services could be held to accommodate different congregants' attitudes to Covid, for example a service with social distancing and a service without. It also recommends having different rooms, where possible, to separate those with different preferences. 

The House of Bishops says: "This is certainly an option, especially if your pattern of worship means you regularly hold multiple services on a Sunday.

"If you have multiple services one after the other (for example a 9am mass followed by a 10.30am sung service) bear in mind that because Covid 19 particles can remain the air you should have services with more measures before those with less, to minimise the chances of infection and give greater security to those who are continuing to act cautiously.

"Outdoor worship continues to be safer with regards to the virus spreading than indoor situations and where conditions and circumstances permit is a helpful option."

 

Children 

When it comes to children's activities, the Church says: "There are no longer any legal restrictions on children and youth groups, and it is no longer required keep children in ‘bubbles’. This applies in all contexts, wherever groups are meeting.

"Sensible cleaning and hygiene practices such as use of hand sanitiser are still a good idea."

 

Catering 

Food and drink can be provided and church cafes can open with no restrictions in place, although masks are recommended in crowded places. This means 'bring and share' lunches can come back, or evangelistic events with food. 

 

In addition to these specific recommendations, the House of Bishops has suggestions to help church goers who might feel anxious. It advises continuing to provide online worship, having the order of service online so people can download it and providing red, amber or green stickers to indicate someone's social distancing preferences. 

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