(Photo: Unsplash/David Beale)

The Government has set out the precautions that churches need to take when they re-open for public worship from 4 July. 

Guidance published on Monday includes a number of restrictions on worship, with churches told to avoid singing and using instruments that need to be blown into, although the organ is permitted.

Churches are preparing to resume public worship after being allowed to open for private prayer earlier this month. 

The guidance has been produced with advice from the science community and the Government’s Places of Worship Taskforce made up of faith leaders. 

“Places of worship play an important role in providing spiritual leadership for many individuals, and in bringing communities and generations together,” it reads.

“However, their communal nature can make them places that are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.” 

Weddings and funerals may resume with up to 30 in attendance.  Communal worship can take place with higher numbers subject to strict social distancing. 

Places of worship are advised to adapt ceremonies and services so that they are “concluded in the shortest reasonable time”, with participants then “encouraged to move on promptly, to minimise the risk of contact and spread of infection”.

“If appropriate, you should reconfigure spaces to enable worshippers to be seated rather than standing which reduces the risk of contact,” the guidance reads. 

It also recommends that where possible, places of worship continue to livestream events to avoid large gatherings and “continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to COVID-19”. 

Churches should use single use service sheets and devotional material or quarantine clean books for 48 hours in between uses. 

Congregations are told to “avoid singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult or that may encourage shouting”.  

“This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets,” the guidance reads.

The playing of instruments “that are blown into should be specifically avoided in worship or devotions and in rehearsals”.

“Where essential to an act of worship, one individual only should be permitted to sing or chant, and the use of plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect worshippers from them, as this will further prevent transmission and the screen can be easily cleaned,” the guidance continues.

“Where music plays a big part in worship, and recordings are available, we suggest you consider using these as an alternative to live singing.

“You are advised only to play musical instruments that are not blown into. Organs can be played for faith practices, as well as general maintenance, but should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use.” 

The full guidance is available to read here 

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