The Covid-19 group offers the following advice and guidance for congregations:
Churches may open for congregational worship, communal prayer and contemplation, subject to physical distancing and hygiene standards. Congregations must determine their own safe building capacity in line with 2 metre physical distancing guidelines, up to a maximum total of 50 people at any one time in Levels 0, 1, 2 and 3, and up to a maximum of 20 in Level 4, regardless of building size or usual capacity.
Face coverings must be worn within places of worship. Those who are leading an act of worship do not always need to wear a face covering provided they can maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from others and/or remain behind a protective screen.
Congregational singing should be avoided. A single individual may sing behind a Plexi-glass screen during a service. Any screen used should be cleaned regularly. Instruments that do not require breath to operate (non-wind instruments) may be played.
Funerals may be held in church buildings. Good hygiene and physical distancing practices must be followed. Attendance at a funeral service should be limited to 20 people for areas in Levels 1, 2, 3 and 4 and 50 people for areas in Level 0. This is not including the funeral director, essential building staff or minister.
Ministers should familiarise themselves with the specific government guidance on funerals https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-funeral-services/
Marriages may be held in church buildings, and good hygiene and physical distancing practices must be followed. In Levels 1, 2 , 3 and 4 up to 20 people may attend a marriage ceremony, provided this can be safely accommodated with physical distancing. In Level 0 the upper limit is 50. These limits include the couple, witnesses, all guests (including children) and any carers accompanying an attendee. It also includes any staff who are not employed by the venue, such as a photographer, musicians or others a couple has employed for the purpose of the ceremony or registration but does not include the minister.
In Levels 1, 2 and 3, up to 20 people can in addition attend a wedding reception taking place in hospitality premises, such as a hotel. In Level 0 the upper limit is 50. These numbers include the couple, guests (including children) and third-party suppliers (such as a photographer) but does not include venue staff or third-party catering staff. The venue must be able to safely accommodate those attending with physical distancing in place. It should be noted that church halls are not considered to be “hospitality premises”. Wedding receptions are not permitted in level 4.
Ministers should familiarise themselves with the specific government guidance on marriage https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-small-marriages-and-civil-partnership-registrations/
Baptisms are now permitted as a faith-specific requirement. This will necessarily involve interaction within a 2 metre distance. Face coverings should be worn by all who take part in this close interaction and strict hand hygiene should be maintained throughout. Where an infant is involved, a parent/guardian should hold the infant.
Test and Protect
To support the Government’s Test and Protect Strategy, it is recommended that congregations keep a temporary register of worshipper contact details for a period of 21 days. Those responsible for the church building or data protection e.g. minister, Kirk Session and Deacons Court should familiarise themselves with Test and Protect:
https://www.nhsinform.scot/campaigns/test-and-protect and the briefing note here.
Additional advice notes, templates and forms:
Note: Zoom advice is provided as an example, there are many video meeting alternatives that may meet your congregational needs better e.g. Webex, Skype, Google Meet and jitsi. The same principles outlined in the Zoom advice note should be considered.