Update: 17 February 2021
COVID-19 Advice for Services during Lent, Holy Week, and Easter
Please note: this revised guidance replaces earlier versions of the advice. Specifically, this document changes advice given in Version 2 (2 February) concerning the distribution of palm crosses (item 5) and of individual candles at the Easter Vigil (item 16).
Issued by the Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales
Version 3 17 February 2021 (Alert Level Four)
Update: 14 January 2021
Alert Level 4 Lockdown
New Variant Covid 19 – Practical Advice Update
It will be clear to all that we are facing a very difficult and dark period in the fight against Coronavirus Covid-19. The emergence of a new variant is a particularly unwelcome development. Welsh Government advice on the new variant tells us:
The new Variant of Covid 19 is more transmissible than the current type, and is likely to be the dominant variant in Wales across the whole population in a matter of weeks.
This means there is a greater chance of contracting the virus if you come into contact with an infected person.
There is no evidence that the new variant increases the likelihood of worse health outcomes for individual children or adults.
Although the vaccination programme is ongoing, the risk-reducing behaviours and controls already communicated during the pandemic (principally social distancing, hygiene and cleaning) remain the most effective means of reducing transmission, for everyone.
Whilst places of worship can, by law, remain open for worship, funerals and weddings, Welsh Government is strongly advising that:
‘those who are responsible for places of worship should consider whether there are alternative ways of holding worship services’.
The Bench of Bishops does not, at this time, require the suspension of in person worship but alternatives to in person worship should be pursued where possible.
So, for those Trustee bodies responsible for churches who still intend holding services in person, you must:
Rigorously review and update your risk assessments and consequence risk management measures to ensure that recommended arrangements can be sustained.
Adjust your arrangements in the light of experience and the observed behaviour of attendees, when open for worship, and make adjustments to prevent lapses. It is more important than ever that social distancing is maintained, face coverings are worn and that hygiene and cleaning standards are fully observed.
Pay particular attention to arrangements for people to leave your building after services. The end of a service is a particular time when social distancing can be breached. Generally, controlled exit row-by-row is advised. Clergy should generally avoid standing by entrances or exits to meet and greet people as this can create bottlenecks and bunching.
Strictly observe guidance on the administration of Holy Communion(still in one kind only) as this is a moment of closer contact.
Submit your updated risk assessment to your Archdeacon for approval
Monitor the incidence of cases in your area and react accordingly – where cases are rising it may justify the suspension of in person worship in your area
Remember that as an open church you are an exemplar of good behaviour
Follow Government and Provincial guidance and do not take chances.
General Considerations under Alert Level 4
Places of worship may open for worship and private prayer but cannot open for general visitors.
Detailed arrangements for worship remain largely unchanged (including music and organised singing) but gathering for outdoor activities is not permissible under Alert Level 4.
Community centres/church halls (or community activity within places of worship) can only be opened for essential public services. This means a limited range of activities provided by both the public and voluntary sector, including:
Vaccinations / mass testing
Mental health services
Organisations who support those suffering from substance misuse or addiction.
Where a community centre/hall is open, both the person responsible for the community centre/hall and the organiser of the activity must take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus at the premises or the spread of coronavirus by those who have been at the premises.
The organiser of each activity carried out within the community centre must carry out a risk assessment and ensure they have complied with the regulations.
Welsh Government provides guidance documents at:
Places of Worship:
There is useful Government guidance on childcare in Level 4 at Childcare and play: alert level 4 frequently asked questions | GOV.WALES
Local churches should study these documents carefully as they are key to understanding the regulations and how to abide by them (and they are regularly updated).
Supplementary guidance from the Church in Wales is available as follows:
O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Bench of Bishops
The Church in Wales