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Coronavirus: Guidance on church worship (6 January)

Coronavirus ChurchWorshipGuidaWe have written guidance for Baptist churches in England and Wales that outlines what is permitted within places of worship according to the UK and Welsh governments. Our guidance interprets various government documents for a Baptist context and suggests what might be best practice for communal worship, prayer meetings and bible studies, weddings, funeral and baptisms. We update our guidance as and when the governments change theirs to reflect the dynamic nature of the pandemic.
Please read this guidance to discover more. Please note that there are some differences between England and Wales and these are explained on the document.  

We recommend these issues are discussed carefully among church trustees alongside the Guidance on Re-Opening Baptist Churches.  Above all, we encourage you not to rush to re-establish gathered corporate worship but only to do so prayerfully and after the widest possible consultation.
  • Version 59: 6 January - Changes to the opening information box clarifying Alert Level 2 restrictions in Wales, and the exemption from the requirement for a COVID pass for large weddings and funerals in England.
  • Version 58: 23 December - Changes to the opening information box to reflect the return to Alert Level 2 in Wales from 26 December.
  • Version 57: 17 December - Minor corrections and clarifications to guidance on face coverings and self-isolation in the light of further updates of Government guidance.
  • Version 56: 10 December - Revised opening information box regarding face coverings during singing following further Government guidance.
  • Version 55: 9 December - Revised opening information box, especially regarding face coverings. Addition of the requirement to self-isolate for those who are close contacts of someone with the Omicron variant.
  • Version 54: 29 November - Information box added at start of the document.
  • Version 53: 1 October - Revision of source documents. Changes to face coverings rules in Wales so that they are not required in areas serving food or drink, nor for weddings.
  • Version 52: 12 August (1pm) - Removal of distinct section for Wales now that Wales has moved to Alert Level 0. Revision to guidance in Section 2 to accommodate the slight differences that remain between England and Wales. Clarification regarding self-isolation in the light of exceptions for those double vaccinated or under-18. Addition in Section 1 of link to interactive map.
  • Version 51: 5 August (2:40pm) - Update in Section 1 to the list of source documents. Changes to Section 3 regarding the numbers attending wedding receptions and funeral wakes in Wales, and regarding changes to self-isolation rules.
  • Version 50: 22 July (2:25pm) - Updated list in Section 1 of the source documents. Addition in Section 2 of extra factors to consider when planning worship in England, including further remarks on singing.
  • Version 49: 15 July (12:25pm) - Document re-written to reflect removal of legal requirement in England from 19 July  and the completion of the move to Alert level 1 in Wales from 17 July.
  • Version 48: 8 July (Noon) - Change to the table in Section 2 to note the forthcoming changes in England from 19 July and the review of restrictions in Wales on 15 July. Addition to Section 3 regarding contradictory guidance on social distancing for places of worship in Wales.  
  • Version 47: 1 July (4:30pm) - Changes to the table in Section 2 and the text in Section 3 to provide more detail about singing in Wales. Change to the table in Section 2 to clarify risk assessment requirements for wedding receptions in England. Change to Section 9 to reflect new guidance on baptisms in Wales.
  • Version 46: 25 June (2pm) - The Welsh Government published on 21 June 2021 significantly updated guidance on the re-opening of places of worship. Having consulted with colleagues in Wales we have decided that rather than radically editing this document we recommend that you read their guidance. This clearly explains what you are now allowed to do. The table in section 2 has been updated to take account of these changes and we refer you to the guidance at relevant points in the rest of the text.
  • Version 45: 17 June (11.30am) - Changes in Section 2 to allow unlimited but socially distanced attendees at weddings, wedding receptions and funeral wakes in England from 21 June, and new rules for numbers at wedding receptions and funeral wakes in Wales. Note added to Section 2 regarding outdoors singing in Wales.
  • Version 44: 10 June (2:45pm) - Changes in Section 2 to allow 30 people to gather outdoors (50 if for church worship), and extended households of up to three households indoors, in Wales. Clarification added to the top of the table in Section 2 about how children count towards the number limits. Correction in Section 3 to advice for those shielding. Expansion of guidance in Section 6 regarding hospitality. Clarification added to Section 8 regarding wedding receptions on church premises.
  • Version 43: 27 May (4pm) - Clarification in Section 8 about whether a service of thanksgiving is a funeral or a ‘commemorative event’.
  • Version 42: 20 May (5:15pm) - Changes throughout to recognise that in England up to 6 people from different households may gather indoors; 30 outdoors; 30 for most life events; and as many as social distancing permits for funerals. Change to Section 2 to note that in Wales, up to 50 people may gather outdoors; and 30 for wedding receptions and funeral wakes indoors. Comments added in Section 6 about refreshments indoors.
  • Version 41: 13 May (4pm) - Changes in Section 2 so that in Wales, outdoors singing is now permitted, and from 17 May, maximum group size outdoors will be 50.
  • Version 40: 6 May (12pm) - Changes in Section 2 so that in Wales, organised children’s activities, wedding receptions with up to 15 people, and funeral wakes with up to 15 people, may all take place indoors. Addition in Section 3 of suggestions about safe singing. 
  • Version 39: 29 April (3:30pm) - Changes to Section 2 so that worship, wedding receptions and funeral wakes may take place outdoors for up to 30 people in Wales; Addition to Section 2 of expected changes in Wales from 3 May; Addition to Section 2 of guidance on offerings which was previously in our guidance on re-opening church buildings.
  • Version 38: 22 April (3pm) - Addition to Section 5 of comments regarding creche facilities; Addition of new section, Section 6, on hospitality before or after worship. 
  • Version 37: 15 April (3:10pm) - Document re-structured. Changes include: In England, the following are now allowed: supervised children’s groups indoors, prayer and bible study groups on church premises, and up to 15 people at weddings, wedding receptions outdoors, and funeral wakes. In Wales, indications about forthcoming changes have been made.
  • Version 36: 1 April (2:30pm) - Removal from Section 3 of the Baptists Together February statement; Correction in Section 3 regarding bible study and prayer groups in Wales; Addition of sentence in Section 3 to say that face coverings are not mandated for worship outdoors, though churches may wish to ask worshippers to wear one.
  • Version 35: 26 March (5.05pm) -  Changes in Section 3 to allow in England from 28 March congregational singing outdoors; and from 29 March, blown instruments in worship, social interaction between sub-groups of six people, and weddings that are no longer restricted to exceptional circumstances; Change in Section 3 withdrawing permission for Bible study and prayer groups indoors on church premises in England; Change is Section 3 allowing outdoors children’s activities in both England and Wales.
  • Version 34: 10 March (5:20pm) - Replacement in Section 3 of incorrect version of the BUGB recommendation regarding churches meeting for worship; Change in Section 3 to guidance regarding weddings; Comment added to Section 11 about the future for congregational singing; New Section 12 added regarding Easter. 
  • Version 33: 5 March (5pm) - Correction in Section 3 to bring the text on worship bands and choirs in line with the table of what is permitted.
  • Version 32: 25 February (3:30pm) - Change to section 3 to replace BUGB recommendation that churches should remain closed with new guidance; Clarification in section 3 regarding permission for prayer and bible study on church premises and outdoors worship; Minor revisions to section 7 regarding open coffins and those who are self-isolating at funerals; Addition of new section 11 to lay out expected changes from 8 March 2021 onwards.   
  • Version 31: 14 January (5:05pm) - Changes to the table in Section 3 to show that private prayer is allowed in church in England but not Wales; ‘blown’ instruments and singing outdoors are again not recommended in England.
  • Version 29: 7 January (3pm) - Correction to table in Section 3 to show that outdoors worship is not permitted in Wales when at alert level 4 and that for England prayer and bible study groups may not happen; Related change to Section 10 on prayer meetings and bible study groups.
  • Version 28: 6 January (2:20pm) - Deletion of Section 11 regarding Christmas arrangements; Addition to Section 3 of national lockdown requirement in England.
  • Version 27: 20 December (8:30pm) - Changes in Section 3’s table and throughout to show extra restrictions for both ‘tier 4’ in England and ‘alert level 4’ in Wales.
  • Version 26: 17 December (10:25am) - Clarification in Section 3 of permission for social interaction during outdoors gatherings on church premises and in a public space; Clarification in Section 11 of the thinking behind group size for door-to-door carol singing.
  • Version 25: 10 December (5:20pm) - Clarification in Section 3 that: in Wales that funerals are for close friends and family only; ‘interaction’ means social interaction. Clarification in Section 7 regarding those who are self-isolating attending funerals in Wales. Addition to Section 11 about carol singing and services in Wales.
  • Version 24: 1 December 2020 (8:20pm) - Clarification in Section 3 regarding singing and bands.
  • Version 23: 30 November 2020 (11:55am) - Major revision of document to reflect revised rules in England from 2 December and in Wales from 9 November
  • Version 22: 12 November 2020 (5pm) - Addition to Lockdown Restrictions in England of permission to hold funeral wakes for up to 15 people; Deletion of paragraph regarding firebreak restrictions in Wales; Relaxation under What is Allowed of rules regarding singing in Wales; Tightening of restriction under What is Allowed  so that only four from different households may socialise in Wales; Change in Outdoors Worship to limit the number of people allowed to worship outdoors in Wales to thirty, both off and on the premises; Change to Prayer Meetings and Bible Study to disallow group meetings in homes in Wales; Deletion from Annual Events of Remembrance information.
  • Version 21: 5 November 2020 (4pm) - Addition at the document’s beginning of lockdown restrictions in England; Changes to Annual Events to allow limited communal singing at Remembrance Day events and to reflect lockdown rules on mixing.
  • Version 20: 22 October 2020 (9:55am) - Addition of Local Rules section at the beginning including ‘firebreaker’ restrictions in Wales. Addition of Annual Events section at the end including Remembrance and Christmas.
  • Version 19: 16 October 2020 (5:20pm) - Clarification under Other Life Events about child dedications; Addition of requirement for baptisms to be held as part of a general worship service.
  • Version 18: 15 October 2020 (5pm) - Inclusion throughout of specific restrictions relating to the different tiers of Covid-alert level; Inclusion in Funerals of provision for wakes of up to 15 people, clarification regarding services of thanksgiving, and suggestions regarding those self-isolating following a positive Covid test; Further suggestions of what to consider if meeting in a home for a small group.
  • Version 17: 25 September 2020 (12 noon) - Correction to Weddings to make clear that anyone working (minister, photographer, organist, premises manager, for example) is not included in the cap of fifteen people; Correction to What is Allowed to clarify the number of singers and the use of wind instruments.
  • Version 16: 24 September 2020 (11:35am) - Clarification of rules regarding Worship Outdoors; Change to Weddings to note reduction in England of the number permitted from 30 to 15; Clarification of rules for England and Wales regarding small groups in Prayer Meetings and Bible Study.
  • Version 15: 17 September 2020 (4:10pm) - Changes in What is Allowed, and in Weddings in light of face coverings becoming mandatory in Wales.
  • Version 14: 10 September 2020 (4:05pm) - Minor revisions throughout reflecting UK Government’s changes to social interaction guidance so that no more than 6 people from different households may socially interact whether indoors or outdoors. Note that each person should still remain physically distant from anyone from another household.
  • Version 13: 27 August 2020 (4:20pm) - Complete re-write of guidance document to reflect the number of churches now meeting for live services and further clarifications from Government.
  • Version 12: 24 August 2020 (3:30pm) - Addition to Baptisms of permission to baptise by immersion in England.
  • Version 11: 20 August 2020 (3:30pm) - Addition to the Introduction of permission for a small number of singers to sing in front of a congregation indoors or outdoors in England; Inclusion under Weddings of renewed permission for receptions of 30 people in England; Inclusion under Weddings and Funerals of probably permission in Wales for receptions and wakes of up to 30 people from 22 August. Inclusion under Baptisms of permission for baptism by immersion in Wales. Addition of a new section on prayer meetings and homegroups.  
  • Version 10: 13 August 2020 (4:00pm) - Confirmation in the Introduction and in Weddings and Funerals of the above changes regarding face coverings; Addition to Whole Church Worship of permission in Wales to use pipe organs.
  • Version 9: 5 August 2020 (12:45pm) - Further clarification that we anticipate that there will be an exemption for the bride, groom and minister from wearing a face mask at a wedding.
  • Version 8: 3 August 2020 (4:45pm) - Clarification on the requirement to wear face coverings from 8 August at weddings and funerals.
  • Version 7: 31 July 2020 (5:00pm) - Change to Introduction to make face coverings mandatory from 8 August. Addition to Weddings to say that the Government have withdrawn their planned allowance of 30 people at weddings receptions which had been scheduled for 1 August.
  • Version 6: 28 July 2020 (10:15am) - Addition to Introduction of request for face masks to be used in church worship in England; Changes throughout to reflect relaxation of rules in Wales; Addition in Children in Worship Services of a link to BU guidance on children’s and youth ministry.
  • Version 5: 23 July 2020 (14:30pm) - clarification on worship outdoors; life events to be held separately from services of worship; and wedding reception numbers
  • Version 4: 20 July 2020 (12:45pm) - clarification on worship outdoors; and wedding reception numbers
  • Version 3: 17 July 2020 (11:30am) - guidance on singing, pre-service and post-service times, and wedding receptions
  • Version 2: 2 July 2020 (3pm)
  • 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