The UK Government has loosened restrictions on singing in places of worship in England.
As of Sunday, 28th March, congregational singing will be permitted outdoors, as long as it takes place within the grounds or outdoor space of a church, and a church follows social distancing and gathering rules. Small groups may also rehearse and perform indoors.
Guidance updated on 26th March states: “When communal worship takes place outdoors, the congregation may join in with singing, and should follow the principles set out in the performing arts guidance. This includes ensuring that congregation members follow social distancing rules. Social contact limits apply, meaning that households, support bubbles or groups of 2 must not mingle. Communal singing in other public open spaces should not take place.
“Indoors: a single small group of singers will be allowed to perform, or rehearse for performance, only where essential to an act of communal worship. This should be limited to as few singers as possible, with social distancing being maintained at all times. Communal singing should not take place.”
The change comes ahead of social gathering rules being relaxed in England on 29th March. Up to six people or two households will be allowed to gather outside. On Monday, churches can then follow the new social contact limits when gathering outside.
Prior to 28th March, guidance stated that singing or chanting should only be done when it was essential to an act of worship and only three individuals were permitted to do so indoors or outdoors.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Twitter that he was “pleased to have clarified guidance on choirs ahead of Easter services”.
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said: “We are grateful to the Government for clarity on guidance for singing as we head into Holy Week and Easter.
“From Palm Sunday, congregations will be able to sing in the church grounds, and a small group of singers may now sing indoors.
“This will allow churches and cathedrals to plan their worship to help online and in-person congregations to mark the journey of the passion and resurrection – a journey of hope, while making local arrangements to ensure transmission risk is minimised.”
Sizes of congregations in England depend on the space available in the grounds, and religious authorities must conduct a risk assessment to ensure households can be socially distanced.
In Scotland, communal worship in a place of worship was permitted from Friday, with a maximum congregation of 50 people, even in areas under the highest Level 4 restrictions.