Throughout the UK and Ireland most of our churches are open again, though care must still be taken as COVID has not gone away. Much of the information below is now out of date, but as you may still find it useful for reference we will leave it here for a while.
- Local restriction tiers: what you need to know (Government guidance - updated 30 November 2020)
- UK Government updates its comprehensive advice on the Safe Use of Places of Worship (10 December 2020)
- UK Government checklist for Special Religious Services and Gatherings (10 December 2020)
- Information Regarding COVID-19 - Comprehensive advice with numerous links from Adventist Risk Management (10 August 2020)
We must all recognise that the reopening process may be difficult and will take considerable time and careful planning. The following guidelines have been agreed by the presidents of all fields within the BUC:
- Risk Assess
- Report to Conference or Mission
- Receive Permission
- Reopen Church
- Record Actions
- Reassess Regularly
Key Timeline Events
- Government advice or guidance being updated regularly in all regions. Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic. Northern Ireland update. Ireland update. Scotland update. Wales update.
- Church boards, working with their Health & Safety Officer in consultation with the Health Ministries department (where these are in place), must produce a risk assessment document, with a corresponding implementation document.
- Government permission to return received – date may vary by region or even district when a “hotspot” system is in place.
- Church boards “sign off” their churches as ready to open, notify their Conference or Mission office, and send them the risk assessments and implementation documents.
- Conference and Mission executive officers collate responses and, based on that evidence, give formal permission for individual churches to open.
- Churches open, in strict accordance with their risk assessment and implementation documents, in full compliance with legal requirements and government guidance, and in close communication with all of their members.
- Church boards ensure that they keep a record of all actions carried out as they follow their risk assessment and implementation procedures.
- Local church boards take responsibility for ensuring that risk assessments and implementation documents continue to be followed carefully.
- If a risk assessment is not being followed, church board should close the church, repeat the risk assessment, sign off, and approval process as above.
Risk Assessment Factors to Consider
- Churches vary considerably, therefore the risk assessment has to be customised for the local situation.
- All churches, when reopening after a period of closure, will require a deep clean. This is not necessarily for the Coronavirus, but for other hazards which may be present, such as legionella in stagnant water etc.
- Congregations which rent from others will have to consult their “landlords”.
- Church is not just what happens on Sabbath, it includes weekly meetings, house meetings, travelling to and from meetings, the visitation programme etc.
- The situation is changing all the time and the risk assessment will need to be checked regularly for changes in local circumstances, official regional risk levels etc.
- Phased returns, multiple services in a day, singing, ordinances, fellowship meals, ticketing systems, deep cleaning, and any possible increased risk due to the demographic makeup of the church, all may need to be considered.
- Adult and Children Sabbath School classes and social distancing.
Guidance Documents and Links for Church Boards
Below are just a few of the many documents and websites that local church boards may find helpful in preparing their risk assessments and guidance documents.
- Latest government guidance on the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic
- Considering Reopening Your Church (document) - Guidance from the TED
- Guidelines for Reopening Churches – Guidance from ARM
- Four Steps to Reopening Church - ARM webinar
- How to Maintain a Closed Building - Guidance from ARM
- Covid-19 Prevention and Planning Resources for Churches (document) - Guidance from ARM
- Safety Officer Duties (document) - Guidance from ARM
- Safety Committee Duties (document) - Guidance from ARM
- Sample Risk Assessment Template (document) - recommended for use accross the BUC. This is based on a template used by the Methodist church and they have kindly given us permission to use and modify it to suit our situation. We will be glad to receive other sample templates if you can think of helpful improvements or customisations that will be beneficial in the Adventist context.
- Sample Risk Assessment Template (NEC) - specifically designed for churches in the North England Conference.
- Sample Risk Assessment Template (document) - from the Church of England. We are hoping to add more templates shortly.
- Legionnaires Guidance (document) 2020-05-19 - from the NEC
- Coronavirus Guidance - from the Church of England
- Coronavirus Guidance - from the Methodist Church
- Coronavirus Guidance - from the Baptist Church
- Coronavirus Guidance - from the Government