Important Covid-19 updates for parishes
September 2020: Important Covid-19 updates for parishes
The following information relates to the management of Covid-19, concerning:
- Test and Trace
- Portable Fogging Sanitisers
- The “Rule of Six”
- Use of Parish Halls
Update on Covid-19 and Staffing
The most recent instruction from the Government is that office staff who are able to work from home should do so. All staff who are currently working in parish offices and on Diocesan sites are doing so following a risk assessment to promote safe working. It is not necessary to close parish offices, but any staff who wish to work remotely should be supported in doing so. Please contact the COO with any queries, E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Test and Trace
The Test and Trace service will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19, save lives and also help us to get back to a more normal way of life. We must do our bit to support this by making sure we collect details of clergy, paid and volunteer staff and visitors working or attending parish meetings on site at any given time. We must also keep details of visitors to the church hall. For parish run activities, the activity organiser should do this. For third party hirers you can ask the hirer to keep the details of the people attending their session(s) but make sure you know how to contact the hirer to pass on to the Test and Trace service.
If you haven’t done so already, please also make sure you have a means of collecting details of people attending church services.
There are two ways of doing this:
- The simplest way for those who can use QR codes is to utilise the NHS COVID-19 App, launched on Thursday 24 September. This involves displaying the official NHS QR code poster on the entrances to your premises.Information is attached to explain how to create a QR code and poster for your church. Visitors scan the QR code when they arrive using the NHS COVID-19 App on their smartphone – a poster guiding them through this was sent to parishes this week, along with a full explanation of the NHS process and service. The guidance poster will need to be displayed alongside the QR code poster that will be specific to the church building. You can find further inofrmation here:
- By written record.There will be those in our communities for whom the QR code may seem a little tricky. It is therefore important to provide the facility for those who cannot use the QR code to have their names recorded. This is best done by one or two stewards rather than leaving a book and a pen on a table, since this will avoid multiple use of pens and further complications with sanitising. Records should be retained for 21 days.
Portable room fogging sanitisers
The additional sanitising requirements during COVID-19 can be difficult for parishes in terms of having the people to carry them out and the additional wear and tear this can have, particularly on wooden surface finishes.
Portable room fogging sanitisers offer an effective alternative to conventional methods. These machines release a fine mist into the air which eventually settles on all surfaces including those difficult to reach by conventional methods. Some devices have settings which produce a dry fog making them more suitable for textiles and other sensitive materials. Depending on the sanitising product used, the residue provides a degree of lasting protection which requires less frequent reapplication. Supplementary sprays can be applied to surfaces in high traffic areas.
The Property Team can provide more information, contact E: email@example.com
Rule of Six
The social distancing approach in the Diocese has been to keep people from different households (including support bubbles) socially distanced from others. This is a safe and simple rule to follow and it is recommended that parishes continue to apply it in the church and church hall. Where parishes are applying this approach, the rule of six will have little impact on how they organise social distancing.
The rule of six allows for people to socialise indoors or outdoors in groups of up to six people (including children) where the group includes people from different households including support bubbles. More than six can be grouped together where everyone is in the same household (including support bubbles). Within a group of six, people should still socially distance from people outside their household or support bubble.
It is not permitted to attempt to increase your venue capacity by arranging people into groups of six. It is important that people from different households (including support bubbles) stay socially distant from others. To keep it safe and simple, seat people so they are socially distanced from people outside their household (including support bubbles).
Third party hirers should be advised of your venue capacity based on individuals socially distancing at 2m and use this to inform how they will socially distance their attendees. This should be reflected in their COVID-19 Risk Assessment.
For more information about the rule of 6 refer to the government guidelines on meeting others safely at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-meeting-with-others-safely-social-distancing/coronavirus-covid-19-meeting-with-others-safely-social-distancing
People should be encouraged to stay socially distant from people outside their household group or support bubble for the duration of their visit by keeping services/ activities in the hall as short as possible and not providing opportunities that encourage social interaction e.g. refreshments after Mass.
Weddings, funerals and other life cycle services
Numbers of mourners at funerals remain unchanged by the latest announcements, limited to 30 people excluding people who are working. From Monday 28 September, wedding ceremonies will be restricted to a maximum of 15 people (down from 30). For stand-alone life cycle services such as first communion and confirmation, numbers will be limited by venue capacity applying social distancing guidelines.
Update on the Use of Parish Halls
Use of halls should be restricted to parish groups and businesses i.e. no hire to private individuals for private celebrations.
Please make sure you provide group organisers/ business operators with a copy of the COVID-19 Secure Information for Hirers notice (a copy should also be displayed in the hall). Bookings to businesses should only be confirmed on receipt of the operator’s COVID-19 Risk Assessment (which should be sense checked for your venue); confirmation of public liability insurance see Hall Hirers Proof of Insurance proforma below and signed Special Terms and Conditions of Hire During COVID-19. The Special Conditions of Hire outline should not be changed (other than to populate the items in red text): if the terms are not appropriate for your setting please contact E: firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a bespoke version for your situation.
For Parish activities taking place in the hall a risk assessment must be carried out and Test and Trace implemented. For support with risk assessments contact E: email@example.com
Hall Hirers Proof of Insurance
The insurers advise that we require any hirers of halls to obtain a copy of the following letter on headed paper from either their insurer or broker:
RENEWAL DATE: XXXX
This is to certify that, subject to the policy terms and conditions, the INSURED holds Public Liability Insurance with INSURER: XXXX
[Combined/Public] Liability – Policy no: XXXX
Limits of Indemnity: XXXX
We can confirm that the above mentioned policy will provide an indemnity to the Insured in respect of any COVID-19 related Public Liability claims.
We can confirm that [the PL section of] the above mentioned policy does not include any exclusions relating to COVID-19, including but not limited to Communicable Disease or Notifiable Disease Exclusions.
Previously Issued Advice - prior to September 2020
Communal acts of worship are now allowed in our Catholic Churches. This guidance, issued by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales for the Celebration of Mass, assumes that the general guidance published by the Conference, based on Government Guidance on the safe opening of Places of Worship for individual prayer, is in place. In particular, the maximum safe operating capacity of the church, based on social distancing guidelines, should be clearly signposted at the door and the number and position within the church of people attending at any one time should be overseen by volunteer steward
The Government maintains that the 2m social distancing requirements should be applied where possible. The Government has said is possible to go to “1m plus;” this means you can space people more closely (with a minimum of 1m) providing a mitigation of risk is also applied. In the case of our churches, this would mean the compulsory wearing of a face covering for members of the congregation.
Worshippers should limit their interactions with anyone they are not attending church with, i.e. if they are attending corporate worship with one other household, wherever possible they should maintain social distancing with anyone outside of this group.
Priests should remain mindful of their own personal situation with respect to potential exposure to virus transmission. It is permissible for those in the 70+ age group, and those who are vulnerable to infection, to celebrate Mass, but it is strongly advised that they do not distribute Holy Communion and take particular care to be constantly socially distant from the congregation. They should return to the sacristy directly after Mass is ended.
Face coverings have been mandatory in Places of Worship since Saturday 8th August 2020. All those who are attending churches must wear a face covering unless they are exempt from doing so. This is for the good of all who gather in the Church for Mass as it is an enclosed public space where there on Government Guidance on the safe opening of Places of Worship for individual prayer, is in place. In particular, the maximum safe operating capacity of the church, based on social distancing guidelines, should be clearly signposted at the door and the number and position within the church of people attending at any one time should be overseen by volunteer stewards.
Priests in the sanctuary
Celebration of Mass within Church Buildings
Before the Mass
Only those necessary should be in the sacristy before Mass. The celebrant, sacristan, or server should prepare everything for the celebration of Mass with care. Single-use gloves should be worn at this stage. Particular care should be taken over the preparation of the elements for Holy Communion. The altar breads for distribution to the people should be placed into a clean covered ciborium (a pall can be placed over a dish paten). Sufficient altar breads for each celebration should be placed within at this stage. A separate ciborium/paten should be prepared for each person who will distribute Holy Communion. The cover of the ciborium or dish paten should not be removed until the time for distribution of Holy Communion.
The priest should prepare his own chalice and paten with a large altar bread for consecration. The chalice should have a purificator and a pall. The purificator should be used only once and then laundered. He should prepare the cruets of wine and water and his own bowl for the lavabo. Again, the towel should be used only once and then laundered.
All hymnbooks and missals and other published material normally used by the congregation and not meant for single use should be removed from the church. The Holy Water stoups should be dry. Until further instruction is given on singing, there should be no congregational singing at Mass.
During the Mass
Any worship aids (missalettes etc.) should be for single use and taken with the user when the Mass ends. They should not be left in the church at the end of Mass.
Servers must wear face coverings whilst in the Sanctuary. Deacons should wear face coverings apart from the proclamation of the Gospel when he should remove the face covering at the lectern and replace is before moving away from it (providing the lectern is sufficiently distant from the congregation). The priest, and if present, deacon and server, should remain socially distant at all times on the sanctuary during the celebration of Mass. This is particularly important at the Gospel (for the deacon’s blessing), the Preparation of the Gifts, and during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Readers should sanitise their hands before and after reading, or be supplied with single-use gloves, and should avoid touching the microphones or the Lectionary during the Liturgy of the Word, apart from page turning. Readers may remove their face coverings at the lectern to read and should replace them before stepping away from it providing the lectern is sufficiently distant from the congregation. The homily should be brief, to minimise the time that people are congregated in the church building. The Prayer of the Faithful should be omitted.
There should be no offertory procession of the gifts of bread and wine to the altar; the priest should have these on the credence table or the altar before Mass begins. There should be no sharing of the collection plate or bag. People should be encouraged to make their donation to the church online or via standing order. Plates or other collecting boxes for cash offerings should be placed at the entrances and exits of churches, and this should be overseen by stewards. The collection should be consolidated into plastic bags, sealed, placed into a secure location and left for 72 hours before counting. Counters should wear gloves when doing this task and the area should be well ventilated and cleaned before and afterwards.
The Communion Rite
Members of the congregation should not exchange the sign of peace.
After the prayer and its response “Behold the Lamb of God...Lord I am not worthy,” the priest should hold up the Host to the Congregation and say audibly “The Body of Christ” to which the people should respond “Amen.” In the same way, he elevates the chalice and says, “The Blood of Christ” and again the people respond “Amen.” The priest should receive Holy Communion under both kinds using his own Host and Chalice. The priest will need to explain this to the congregation at this point.
There are two options for the distribution of Holy Communion. In both cases, because the people have already acclaimed the presence of the Lord, at the Priest’s Communion, the People’s Communion is distributed in silence with no dialogue between minister and communicant. The priest, and those who are distributing Holy Communion should wear face coverings when doing so.
• Option 1
Once the priest has received Holy Communion, he should put on his face covering and cleanse his hands with alcohol sanitiser before opening the pre-prepared ciborium for the Communion of the people. If there is a deacon assisting, or any other Minister of Holy Communion, they should similarly cleanse their hands and then receive communion from the priest from the people’s ciborium, and under one kind only. They should then put on their face coverings and cleanse their hands again before receiving their ciborium from which they remove the covering or pall if it is still in place.
At the place where communion is to be distributed, a physical barrier should be placed, for example a prie-dieu (kneeler on the priest’s side) or small table to socially distance the priest distributing Holy Communion from communicants. Communion must be given silently in the hand only, with the communicant standing, and avoiding any physical contact. People should wait in their pews until instructed to move forward to the priest for Holy Communion by the Stewards, always aware of the regulations on social distancing in the orderly queue. When they approach the priest, they should do so with arms at “full stretch” so that there is a good distance between the priest and the communicant. Their hands, palms upwards, one of top of the other, should be extended as flatly as possible. The communicant should unloop their face covering and consume the Sacred Host and then replace the face covering before moving back to their pews in an orderly manner.
Once Communion is complete, the priest returns to the altar and places the unused Hosts, without touching them, into the Tabernacle, he then can remove his face covering before he cleanses the sacred vessels himself in the usual way.
• Option 2
The priest receives Holy Communion as described and immediately cleanses his paten and chalice. He then holds a reverent silence before the Prayer after Communion, giving the Blessing and dismissal. At this point, the priest puts on his face covering, cleanses his hands with hand sanitiser and the other Ministers of Holy Communion who will assist the priest come forward, cleanse their hands and receive Holy Communion under one kind. They should then put on their face coverings and cleanse their hands again before receiving their ciborium from which they remove the covering or pall if it is still in place. They then move to the points for distribution and communicants are stewarded forward in an orderly manner to receive Holy Communion as above, and then immediately leave the Church. The remaining Blessed Sacrament is placed into the Tabernacle, the priest then can remove his face covering before the vessels are cleansed in the usual way.
After the Celebration of Mass
The procession from the sanctuary at the end of the Mass should ensure good social distancing. The sanctuary party should return to the sacristy after Mass. If the clergy wish to greet the people, they should remove their vestments, put on a face covering (if in church) and not engage in any physical contact with parishioners, who should be encouraged to return home and not remain.
The celebrant should place the used altar linens into a receptacle for laundry. All sacred vessels should be washed in hot water with a little neutral soap and dried completely before storing. Any discarded printed materials should be removed and bagged for disposal.
The church should be closed after the Mass has finished in order to clean the space according to the Bishops’ Conference guidelines on individual prayer. If there is cause for concern regarding the possible contamination of clerical vestments worn during the celebration of Mass, these should be washed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, using the warmest water setting allowed for the fabric and allowing time for them to dry completely.
Celebrations of Mass Outdoors
If there is space for the celebration of Mass outdoors around the Church, which allows for the social distancing guidelines of Government to be fulfilled, and that all of the above liturgical advice can be done safely, then there is no reason why Mass cannot be celebrated outside of a church within the boundary of the parish property. If a Catholic parish school or its grounds is to be used for Mass, a separate risk assessment has to be done, the appropriate school authority (Governing Body or Trust) has to give its permission, and both the parish and school insurers should be informed before the event takes place.
Rev. Canon Christopher Thomas 3rd August 2020