Coronavirus safety in church services

These are the main policies for keeping worshippers safe which the Rector and PCC have agreed upon.

Face-masks

Visitors and worshippers in the church must wear face coverings. This is currently a Government mandated policy as of 10th December 2021.

Congregational singing

Congregational singing is taking place. However,  we have agreed to request face masks continue to be worn when singing.  The wearing of face-masks whilst singing has been shown to make a significant reduction in aerosol production.  Currently we are singing hymns only, not the other prayers within the Communion service,  and fewer hymns than pre-pandemic to reduce risk, including  by shortening time spent in the building for services.

Seating

We retain the current closure of  some pews, such that half of the pews generally are out of use, in order to ensure that there is a distance of 1 -2 metres between rows of occupied pews.  There will be no longer any restrictions on the number of people on a pew, with the important proviso that people are able to request that seats adjacent to theirs be kept empty. Polite seat notices are provided if required for this purpose.

Christmas: At the main Christmas services seat allocations by numbered pew have been made – please check your pew number.

Social distancing generally

There is no attempt to enforce this, but an expectation that people will naturally respect and negotiate informally preference between themselves.

The Peace

To avoid difficulties and respect needs,  the Peace remains non-contact for the time being.

Holy Communion

Although the use of the common shared cup is no longer banned the current plan at All Saints is not yet to offer it, on the basis that we would not wish to cause worshippers to feel they should use it against their better judgement, nor would we want to appear to be careless of safety considerations in what is a life-giving sacrament.

Currently we offer a  safely-intincted wafer; that is a wafer dipped by the priest into a chalice of consecrated wine from which no one has consumed.

Communion will continue to be received standing and kneeling at the communion rail is not yet to be re-introduced.

Hygiene

Hand sanitiser continues to be available at the door of the church and inside the church for use by the congregation and also on the platform for use by the ministers and others handling objects others may also touch. There will continue to be a strong emphasis  in messaging on doing this

The use of separate lecterns has ceased,  but there is a request for readers to sanitise their hands before approaching the lectern.

Cleaning

Cleaning is reduced to door handles and key touchpoints only, (not every pew) once a day;  except following notification of a suspected or confirmed case of Covid-19 in the building when closing for 3 days may be a preferable option.

Coffee in The Cornerstone after church services

(18th December update) In light of Government public health advice to avoid socialising where possible at the present time the Rector has taken the interim decision to  cancel coffee after services from 19th December until further notice.

Live-streaming the Parish Communion and other services.

For the foreseeable future, the live-streaming of Parish Communion services to our YouTube channel will continue

PCC plans to give thought to how live-streaming can become more purposeful as a means of reaching people not currently engaging with worship in church. This could include:
– providing more information and “marketing” of the existence of the livestream
– enhancing the experience of the livestream through showing some of the congregation (with permission) such as when singing, having the words of bible readings more readily accessible; finding a way to provide live captioning if possible, finding a way to interact with live viewers during the broadcast.

– Use livestreaming for other services. The PCC has successfully received gant support from the Diocese and purchased equipment  which can be used in services where the current tech team is not available.

The background to the policies.

Goverment recommendations are the minimum standard we adopt, and obvious including those which are legally mandated.

All Saints Parish Church is a large space but not readily ventilated whilst events are taking place because of the noise from traffic if doors are left open, although the heating system can be used to move air through the building. There are a number of pinch points eg the porch and vestry entrances, and the clergy vestry is a confined working space.

Central guidance from the Church of England now places the responsibility on parishes to manage the risk in our local context, whilst listening to the concerns of the vulnerable in our communities. The guidance also states the following:

“Vaccination cannot be the sole means of containing the spread of the virus: hand and respiratory hygiene, social distancing, face-coverings and good ventilation are also important factors in lessening the spread of the disease … they are still important public health mitigations and ought to be recognised as such when planning public worship and other church activities.”

Main principles 

The main principles guiding the PCC’s discussion were safety, ensuring church services remain safe events;  and inclusion, both of those with particular concerns about the risk of infection, and also of those who want to see the missing elements of our worship, such as congregational singing,  restored if possible. The PCC also recommended a step-by-step approach going forward.

We stress that no one should feel under any religious or spiritual obligation of duty, or loyalty to the church or the clergy, to attend services whilst the situation remains as it is; but each must do what they feel comfortable about. If you do choose to attend a Communion service, nevertheless you should feel under no obligation physically to receive communion during the pandemic.

The Rev Canon David Hodgson

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