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Coronavirus: Guidance on re-opening Baptist church buildings

GuidanceOnRe-openingBaptistChuUpdated 13 January 2022

On 19 July, the UK Government confirmed the move to step 4 of their Covid-19 recovery roadmap. From 7 August, the Welsh Government moved to Alert Level 0. In both cases the vast majority of the previous legal requirements have been removed. Nevertheless, as infections continue to rise, the Government recommends continuing caution. Good ventilation, diligence in hygiene, wearing a face covering in enclosed and crowded spaces, and minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts with those we do not live with, are all noted as beneficial behaviours.

We have updated our guidance leaflet to help churches work through the practicalities of re-opening.  Please note that whilst much of this leaflet is generally applicable it has been written primarily with a view to re-opening churches for worship services.  Your key legal requirement prior to re-opening is to carry out a risk assessment (we have provided a template for this) and then implement any control measures identified. 

Churches in England should refer to government guidelines and ensure that they operate within these as a minimum.   These should be regularly reviewed as they are updated frequently.  Please note that reference to 'Venue Managers' in the Government guidance should be interpreted by Baptist churches as being the church charity trustees, who carry the legal responsibility for the general control and management of the administration of the church.

Churches in Wales should refer to the Guidance for Places of Worship. The Welsh Government announced on 14 July that from 17 July 2021 Wales will complete their move to Alert Level 1 meaning that up to six people may meet in homes and there is no restriction on numbers meeting outdoors. A further lifting of restrictions is planned for 7 August. 

These guidance notes are intended to help Baptist Church trustees/leaders/deacons to work through the issues involved in practicalities of re-opening their buildings and interpreting the guidance in a Baptist context.  These notes are not a replacement for the Government guidance and should be read in conjunction with that guidance.  If you identify any conflict between this document and the government guidance, the government guidance prevails. 

Please click here to download Word version of the Appendices to the Guidance on re-opening church buildings document.

Guidance on Church Worship
Please also see the new Guidance on Church Worship from our Ministries Team.
Version 3.09: 13 January (6:30pm) - Revisions to front page text. Removal of references to self-isolation for Omicron case contacts. Revision of text on protecting the clinically vulnerable. Revision of text on handling someone developing symptoms whilst in the building. Revision of text on NHS COVID-Pass to make clear that worship events are exempt and provide links to relevant guidance for very large events. Revision of guidance on symptom checks on entry. Simplification of guidance on managing traffic flow through buildings. Other minor textual revisions throughout.

Version 3.08: 23 December (9:10am) - Updates to reflect move of Wales to Alert Level 2 from 26 December 2021, including revisions to text on the front page and sections 3 and 7.

Version 3.07: 10 December (11:30am) - Updated Section 3 and section 7 to reflect publication of UK government guidance on face coverings for England.

Version 3.06: 9 December (6pm) - Updated front page to reflect UK government announcement on 8 December of move to 'Plan B'.
Updated section 3 to reflect the new requirement to wear a face covering in places of worship in England from 10 December 2021.
Updates made section 2 and 6 relating to contamination of surfaces and cleaning requirements to align to the government guidance.
Paragraph added to section 5 to make clear that NHS COVID Passes are not required for places of worship.
Updated Section 7 to note the guidance to work from home where you can in England.

Version 3.05: 2 December (2:15pm) - Updated to reflect changes in guidance following the emergence of the Omicron variant and the obligation to self-isolate if in contact with a suspected Omicron Case. Updates to sections 4 and 5 to remove the recommendation to record a full seating plan and also to make clear that we recommend informing all attendees of a subsequent positive case.

Version 3.04: 4 November (2:15pm) - Creation of a new Section 4 (and renumbering of subsequent sections) to make it easier to find the guidance on handling cases of COVID-19 in the church building that was previously at the end of Section 3.  Revisions to the wording of this new section. Amendments to the wording of the section on recording attendees in the building. Updated link to guidance for churches in Wales on first page. Review and update of all hyperlinks to ensure they are still pointing to live documents.

Version 3.03: 12 August (1pm) - Changes throughout reflecting the move to Alert Level 0 in Wales.

Version 3.02: 5 August (3:40pm) - Comments added to reflect the removal of the need to self-isolate in Wales for fully vaccinated adults who are close contacts of someone with coronavirus.

Version 3.01: 22 July (3:40pm) - Amendments to reflect that England has now moved to Step 4 and to incorporate the published government guidance for Places of Worship in England.

Version 3.00: 15 July (12:20pm) - Amendments to incorporate the move to Step 4 in England from 19 July 2021 and move to Alert Level 1 in Wales from 17 July 2021.

Version 2.17: 8 July (17:00pm) - Addition to cover page to reflect UK government announcement on 12 July about measures once step 4 is implemented. Added sentence to Section 1 subsection about insurance to provide information on approach of Baptist Insurance. 

Version 2.16: 17 June (17:30pm) - Update in Section 6 to note that the churches may apply the guidance for Multi-purpose community facilities for non-church activities. 

Version 2.15: 10 June (2:45pm) - Update of Social distancing subsection in Section 3 to reflect updated guidance in Wales including Extended Households. Update of Seating Arrangements subsection in Section 3 to improve clarity.

Version 2.14: 20 May (5:15pm) - Updates to reflect move to Step 3 in England and move to Alert level 2 in Wales on 17 May.  This includes updates in Section 3 on in paragraphs on Social Distancing and Use of Outside Spaces and Section 5 on Use of the church for other activities. Also update to provide link to waste disposal guidance in the section on Cleaning Practices

Version 2.13: 13 May (5:45pm) - Update to section on Social Distancing to reflect the latest rules in England and Wales.
Update to section on Outdoor worship to reflect the latest rules in England and Wales.

Version 2.12: 6 May (4:30pm) - Section on streaming of services amended to point to content in Guidance Leaflet L18 rather than duplicate advice.

Version 2.11: 29 April (4:25pm) - Minor further rationalisation of section 5 to reduce overlaps with Guidance on Church Worship.

Version 2.10: 22 April (4:20pm) - Significant rationalisation of section 5 to reduce overlaps with Guidance on Church Worship. Relocated sections on people developing symptoms or subsequently testing positive from Section 5 to Section 3

Version 2.09: 16 April (9:15am) - Updated to reflect Step 2 in the English roadmap, including amendments to Section 6 to add other activities now permitted in Places of Worship and Section5 to make clear that Prayer Meetings and Bible Studies are now permitted in England.

Version 2.08: 1 April (3:45pm) - Updated section on use of PPE to clarify that face coverings are not required outdoors in the grounds of a place of worship. Updated section on use of outside spaces to clarify position on use of face coverings. Updated section on Prayer Meetings and bible studies to note that we have asked the government for clarification and the different position in Wales.

Version 2.07: 26 March (5.10 pm) - Updated to reflect changes to guidance on singing indoors and outdoors in England from 28 March and changes to social contact rules from 29 March.  Updated section on Prayer Meetings and Bible Studies to reflect the listing of prayer or study groups in the examples of activities that are not permitted.

Version 2.06: 11 March (6pm) - Minor update to remove reference to Tiers 2 and 3 in travel section.

Version 2.05: 25 February (3:30pm) - Updated cover page to reflect changed position from leadership of Baptists Together.
Minor amendment to Section 6 to note that additional other uses of church buildings will be permitted as lockdown is eased.

Version 2.04: 4 February (5:00pm) - Updated Introduction to reflect new legal requirements on risk assessments for churches in Wales
Updated section on Prayer Meetings and Bible Studies to reflect amendments to published government guidance.

Version 2.03: 14 January (8:15pm) - Cover page updated to reflect the latest government guidance was published on 11 January. Section on Singing, Instrumentalists and Music re-written to reflect the latest changes to guidance in England. Updated section on Outdoor Worship.

Version 2.02: 7 January (3:15pm) - Updated to reflect the introduction of National Lockdowns in England and Wales.  Updated the front page to include statement from leadership of Baptists Together. Updates to multiple sections to reflect national lockdown conditions, including substantial changes on use of outdoor space, prayer meetings and bible studies and other uses of premises.

Version 2.01: 20 December (8:25pm) - Updated to reflect the introduction of tier 4 Covid alert level of ‘Stay at Home’ in England.

Version 2.00: 1 December (8:20pm) - Fully revised to reflect the end of lockdown in England and introduction new tiered restrictions.

Version 1.28: 12 November (6pm) - Updated to reflect the end of the Firebreak lockdown in Wales and the revised guidance now in force. Removed reference to regional restrictions on the front page as these are no longer in place in either England or Wales. Added a link to the HSE guidance on ventilation

Version 1.27: 5 November (6:15pm) - Updated to reflect the National Lockdown restrictions in England from 5 November until 2 December 2020.

Version 1.26: 22 October (3:50pm) - Front page updated to note the Firebreak lockdown in Wales from 23 October to 9 November.

Version 1.25: 15 October (4:20pm) - Updated link on first page to new government page for checking local restrictions in England. 
Updated section in the Introduction on Risk Assessment to refer to Local COVID alert levels. 
Updated Section 3 to reflect updates to social distancing requirements in line with Local COVID alert levels. 
Updated Section 3 paragraphs on face coverings to reflect the fact that they are now compulsory in Wales in places of Worship with no exception for church staff/volunteers and to add clarity that face shields are not a substitute for a face covering. 

Version 1.24: 8 October (6:00pm) - Updated section 4 to make clearer the use of consent as the basis for collection of contact details and suggested mechanisms for meeting GDPR requirements.  

Version 1.23: 1 October (4:55pm) - Updated section 3 to reflect the rule of 6 within social distancing guidance.  Updated section 4 with clarified guidance on use of QR codes for building check-in and collection of attendee details.  Updated section 5 to include the rule of 6 in social interaction guidance.  Updated section 5 to clarify approach to cleaning after a suspect case.  Updated Appendix 2 to clarify that wording on cleaning checklist. Updated Appendix 4 with revised Privacy Statement to reflect changed guidance from ICO on consent to collect data.

Version 1.22: 18 September (7pm) - Updated section 3 text on use of outside spaces to reflect clarifications received from government.Updated section 5 to reflect explicit limitation to 6 singers and change to guidance on blown instruments.

Version 1.21: 17 September (4:20pm) - Updated links on cover page to local lockdown restrictions in England and Wales.  Updated section 3 to reflect the lack of clarity over larger gatherings in public outdoor spaces.  Updated section 4 to reflect updated requirements for collecting data and displaying a QR code for checking on the NHS Test and Trace app.Updated text in Section 6 relating to reflect revised guidance for community buildings.

Version 1.20: 10 September (4pm) - Updated Section 3 to reflect the new guidance on social distancing that applies from 14 September and updates on use of outdoor spaces. Updated Section 4 to reflect the new legal force around collection of data for Track and Trace from 18 September.

Version 1.19: 3 September (4:10pm) - Minor updates to cleaning guidance in section 2 and Appendix 3 to make clear that Appendix 3 only applies to cases where coronavirus contamination is suspected.

Version 1.18: 27 August (4:25pm) - Updated paragraphs on cleaning in section 2 to reflect the latest government guidance.  Updated paragraph on Weddings, Funerals and Baptisms in section 5 to reflect that these are all now permitted within the restrictions.Updated paragraph on 'Ensuring the activity can be conducted safely' in Section 6 to make clear the duties of Church Trustees as venue managers.  Also Added links to guidance on food-related activities and community centres in this section.

Version 1.17: 20 August (3:30pm) - Updated section 5 and other areas that referred to this section to reflect new rules on music groups leading worship. Revised formatting of hyperlinks to be consistent throughout the document. 

Version 1.16: 13 August (4:10pm) - Minor wording updates throughout for clarification and elimination of typographical errors. Integration of Welsh guidance into section 3, 4 and 5 in the document Updated section 3 to reflect Shielding being paused in England. Updated section 5 to give more detail on what to do in the event of a visitor to the church premises subsequently testing positive or developing symptoms. 

Version 1.15: 11 August (11:15am) -  Update Section 3 to reflect updated guidance regarding the use of face coverings.  Updates to Sections 5 and 6 regarding the process to follow should a member of your congregation or visitor to your church test positive for the virus. Addition of Appendix 7: Template Press Release regarding Track and Trace.

Version 1.14: 6 August (10:30am) - Temporary note added that we are anticipating clarification of the requirements for use of face coverings by those leading a service and the bride and groom in a marriage ceremony.

Version 1.13: 4 August (12:30pm) - Update section 3 adding paragraph clarifying that church trustees should determine the appropriate face covering for church staff to wear when church service is taking place in the building.

Version 1.12: 3 August (4:45pm) - Update to section 3 to reflect clarified guidance on use of face coverings in weddings.

Version 1.11: 3 August (11:30am) - Update in Section 3 with new paragraph regarding face coverings and leading services in England. Additional sentence clarifying that face shields / visors do not meet the requirement to wear a face covering.

Version 1.10: 31 July (5:00pm) - Updated Section 3 to reflect that in England wearing face coverings in a place of worship will be mandatory from 8 August.

Version 1.9: 27 July (5:15pm) - Updated to reflect the guidance issued by the Welsh Government on 20/07/20.  Updated Section 3 to reflect that face coverings should be worn in a place of worship in England even if 2m social distancing can be maintained.

Version 1.8: 23 July (2:30pm) - New paragraph in section 4, on recording where people sit to mitigate against the entire congregation being asked to self-isolate by NHS Track and Trace

Version 1.7: 20 July (12:45pm) - Updated paragraph on use of outdoor spaces in section 3 to reflect clarified guidance on gatherings off church premises.   

Version 1.6: 16 July (1:45pm) - Note on local regulations on first page.  Added text around interpreting scoring of risks in Introduction section.  Added text around how this fits with the mission of the church in the Introduction section.  Clarification in section 2 paragraph on building controls and ventilation that guidance is referring to fresh air ventilation.  Updated text on PPE in section 3 relating to young children and face coverings and face coverings being mandatory in shops from 24 July.  New paragraph on use of outside spaces in section 3.  Updated text on recording details of attendees to incorporate ICO guidance in section 4.  Updated wording on limiting social interactions in section 5.  New paragraphs on use of the premises for filming services for broadcast and streaming of services in section 5.Updated wording on other uses of the premises, including external organisations hiring premises in section 6. 

Version 1.5: 9 July 2020 (4:15pm) - Clarified wording on waste in Section 2. Added paragraph on transport in section 4.  Added comment on queuing systems at entrances in section 4.  Added paragraphs on Church Members’ Meetings and Prayer Meetings and Bible Studies in section 5.  Updated paragraph on children’s’ activities in section 5 to refer to new government and Baptists Together guidance.  Updated paragraph on social interactions in section 5.  Added additional detail to section on use of church for other activities.  Reworded of reoccupation checklist item about pest control.

Version 1.4: 2 July 2020 (3:15pm) - Added Appendix 6 – Contractor Checklist and paragraph about management of contractors into section 2. Added reference to collection of posters. Made clear that face coverings are not required under government guidance where 2m distancing is possible, but still recommended.

Version 1.3: 1 July 2020 (10:45am) - Link to Risk Assessment templates updated

Version 1.2: 30 June 2020 (10:45pm) - Link added to Government Guidance on Multi-Use Community facilities

Version 1.1: 30 June 2020 (12:45pm) - Link added to Risk Assessment template

Version 1: 30 June 2020 (9am)


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Links to all our guidance information
The latest information for churches
Document re-written to reflect removal of legal requirement in England from 19 July and the completion of the move to Alert level 0 in Wales from 7 August
The latest guidance for churches
Guidance from our Legal Team on various legal and regulatory issues
Your key legal requirement prior to re-opening is to carry out a risk assessment
    Posted: 20/03/2020