Over recent days you will have seen the coverage around increases in the rates of transmission of COVID-19 across the country and, in response, the package of measures the Prime Minister has announced.
Firstly, it’s important to stress that the new measures will not affect communal worship – but that the rule of six must still apply as outlined in the guidance we republished last week (i.e. people should only arrive, undertake worship and leave the venue in groups of six unless all members of the group are from the same family or support bubble).
However, the Prime Minister has outlined a package of measures the government is taking forward and that does include changes which will affect faith communities in the following ways:
· From Monday 28th September, a maximum of 15 people will be able to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions.
· Up to 30 people can still attend a funeral
· From Monday 28 September, the rule of six will apply to standalone religious and belief-based life cycle ceremonies, such as stone setting ceremonies or wakes. This means that these events must be limited to 6 attendees.
· Life cycle events like christenings and bar/bat mitzvahs that take place within communal worship are not limited to 6 attendees, provided that groups of more than 6 do not mingle.
We do recognise the disappointment that many people who have been planning weddings or other standalone life cycle events will be feeling right now. We wanted to thank you all for the support we know you will provide to these individuals and their families at this difficult time, as well as for the time that will be spent making new arrangements.
The guidance for Weddings and Places of Worship will be updated to reflect these changes and as ever will be available here:
There are some other elements of the package that could impact places of worship and faith communities that we wanted to also bring to your attention:
· If you are able to work from home, you should do so. Where homeworking is not possible, people should continue to attend their workplaces
· From Thursday all pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table-service only, except for takeaways. Together with all hospitality venues, they must close at 10pm.
· The requirement to wear face coverings to will be extended to include staff in retail, all users of taxis and private hire vehicles, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
· COVID-Secure guidelines for retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors will become legal obligations. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules.
· Business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not be able to reopen from the first of October as previously hoped.
Finally we have been asked two specific questions in the last 24 hours and we wanted to share the answers with you:
If life cycle event does not traditionally happen during communal worship does that mean it is limited to 6 people attending?
The changes to the Regulations are to prevent social intervention of groups larger than six to reduce transmission of COVID. The regulations permit life cycle events, to continue, subject to that restriction. But we encourage everyone to think hard about proceeding with such events at this time.
We know that family occasions or life cycle events will by their nature involve greater interaction with friends and family which is why the number of attendees is capped. If a family chooses to have their life cycle event as a private ceremony then the event must be capped at six people (excluding those working at the event).
However, there are cases where life cycle events happen within the course of communal worship – where all attendees arrive, worship and leave together in groups of no more than six people – unless all members of the group are from the same family or support bubble.
Communal worship services can continue to be attended by as many people as can safely accommodate in the Place of Worship while adhering to social distancing requirements. And during communal worship, there should be no mingling between groups of six and even within those groups people should continue to socially distance from people they are not living with or are not part of a support bubble with. Faith leaders should ensure that guests who are attending the life cycle event as part of worship do not mingle outside of a group of six (again, unless all members of the group are from the same family or support bubble).
We recognise that communal worship comes in all shapes and sizes with some regular services as well as some additional services that mark important milestones in the faith calendar. But it is crucial that faith leaders/venue managers adhere to all COVID-Secure measures, including the rule of 6.
Weddings and funerals are subject to specific separate limits on numbers and not treated as life cycle events for these purposes.
What is the requirement on a Place of Worship in regard to QR codes for the purposes of Test and Trace?
Places of Worship are exempt from both the legal requirement to collect this information and from a new requirement to display the Test and Trace app QR code. But we strongly encourage all of you to continue to cooperate with the Test and Trace programme and its requirements.
As ever please do not hesitate to contact the team if you have any questions.
Faith, Integration and Communities
Faith, Integration and Communities Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government