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Coronavirus: Church of England gives guidance on how churches can re-open

by Tola Mbakwe

UPDATE: Government has brought forward the date for churches to re-open. Click here for details.

The Church of England has updated its Covid-19 guidance for churches.

The guidance now gives more information how parishes should prepare to re-open and answers questions on churches opening for private prayer, as well as weddings, funerals and baptisms.

According to the Government, places of worship will be able to open on 4th July at the earliest and that date is subject to further scientific advice.

Currently only clergy or lay ministers can enter a church building as part of a rota. The updated guidance instructs them to ensure parts of the church that are touched are thoroughly cleaned between use.

If services are being streamed, filming should be done by a member of the priest’s or lay minister’s household.

The guidance states: “It is anticipated that only individual prayer will be allowed when the church is open to the public. No public worship, streamed or otherwise, should take place whilst the building is open to visitors.”

Hand sanitizer should be used going in and out of church buildings and clergy are asked to consider “marking places where people can sit or removing some chairs for churches with movable seating” to help with social distancing.

The guidance also gives parishes a risk assessment document to determine when it will be safe to reopen their buildings.

Funerals, weddings and baptisms are still not allowed in church buildings.  But when restrictions are eased and they are allowed, social distancing must be maintained. Rules include no physical contact with someone outside your household, and avoiding the sharing of hymn books and Bibles.

The guidance also said hymns and singing is not advised as it “this may encourage droplet and aerosol spread.” The guidance suggested recorded music as the next best option.

The Catholic Church in Scotland has also released guidance for re-opening churches. 

In a letter sent to Scotland's 600 Catholic Priests, the Bishops' Conference of Scotland have issued a series of guidance documents, which will govern moves "towards the reopening of churches and the resumption of public worship".

 In a Pastoral Letter which accompanies the guidance, the bishops explain that their aim "is to act in harmony with the guidance of the Government and the health authorities, with whom we are in conversation, and to return to our normal liturgical and devotional practice in a safe and phased way."

The letter signed by all eight of Scotland's Catholic bishops, stresses that "it is important that we act together as the Catholic Church in Scotland, in step with one another, and clear about what is legitimate and prudent at each stage of the process." 

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