The Government published on Saturday, for England, guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic from 4 July. Though it says it’s a new document, it seems to be an updated version of the 29 June document. Government guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships has also been updated.
Please also note advice particularly relevant to Single Congregation Local Ecumenical Partnerships and Shared Buildings. This has been put together by those National Ecumenical Officers most involved in LEPs. While that link takes you to the relevant page of our website, I am including it here too for ease of circulating it further:
In some cases guidelines about the opening of buildings for individual prayer or for public worship from different denominational authorities may not be identical. This may present some problems for Single Congregation LEPs and for shared buildings, however formal the arrangements for the latter may be.
First of all, it is important to adhere to Government guidance for the safe use of places of worship from 4 July. You may also find helpful the guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships which has been updated. As well as keeping an eye on the detailed information on the websites of participating Churches, refer, also, to CTE’s Coronavirus hub. In particular, many people have found extremely helpful the updated document from the URC.
However, most denominations are not expecting all places of worship or buildings to respond in the same way. This is particularly true for Single Congregations and shared buildings. For these, the emphasis should not be on rules and regulations, but upon building up good relations within the LEP or between those sharing a building. If holding services causes a problem to one party, then it would better to wait however keen another party may justifiably be. Most denominational guidance mentions the need for the widest possible consultation before deciding to re-open or not and this is particularly important for LEPs and shared buildings.
In a Single Congregation LEP, of course, the provision of worship is shared in a way that will be outlined in the Constitution, but the key thing is that it does not belong to one side or the other. Agreement must be found and in LEP situations that should be decided by the relevant joint council as defined in the Constitution. The provision of worship, furthermore, is subject to safety considerations as mandated by Government. But charity is the most important thing, and that means both the safety of the congregation and building up a living relationship among everyone.