COVID-19 (Coronavirus) - Guidance For Congregations

March 11, 2020

Update 17th March 2020

We are reviewing our guidance following the government advice of 16th March 2020, and will provide an update as soon as possible.

Update 13 March 2020

The Board of Trustees re-highlights its guidance of 6 March 2020, and in addition, highlights the government update that as of today, anyone developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, however mild should self-isolate for 7 days. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are recent onset of new continuous cough and/or high temperature.

 At the time of writing, Health Protection Scotland is updating its guidance in line with the change for the above (last update for non healthcare settings 4 March). The Board will consider any updated guidance when it is available and respond accordingly.

Meantime, given the increase in cases of COVID-19, the Board believes it is appropriate for Kirk Sessions to enhance plans or actions that will help maintain safe congregational activities and protect the congregation. The Board would encourage all Kirk Sessions to take steps to reduce the potential for spread of the virus through rigorous hygiene practices and minimal or no sharing of physical contact and food/drink in churches. Kirk Sessions should also consider widening the use of technology for church services, and maintaining pastoral care activity through digital means (phone, email etc) rather than physical visits. Serious consideration should be given to the issue of the common cup. A number of congregations have switched to individual cups, and of course it is always open to a Kirk Session to postpone communion whilst the crisis and guidance develop.

The Board encourages all to pray for the Lord's protection, guidance and overruling in the current public health crisis.

Guidance as of 6 March 2020

The Board of Trustees offers the following guidance to congregations in relation to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

  1. Congregations should follow best hygiene practices and the general principles from Health Protection Scotland (Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings) to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, such as:
  • Routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched objects and surfaces (e.g. telephones, keyboards, door handles, desks and tables). 
  • Promote hand hygiene by making sure that staff, contractors, service users and visitors have access to hand washing facilities and providing alcohol-based hand rub in prominent places. 
  • Ensure any crockery and cutlery in shared kitchen areas is cleaned with warm general purpose detergent and dried thoroughly before being stored for re-use. 
  • Avoid leaving food stuffs (e.g. crisps, open sandwiches) exposed and open for communal sharing unless individually wrapped.

As individuals:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water; or use alcohol-based hand rub. 
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Wherever possible, avoid direct contact with people that have a respiratory illness and avoid using their personal items such as their mobile phone. 
  • Cover coughs and sneezes (nose and mouth) with disposable tissues, then dispose of these in the nearest waste bin after use. And then wash your hands/use Alcohol Based Hand Rub.

The latest guidance is found here and should be checked regularly:

If someone who may be at risk of COVID-19 (e.g. through travel to a risk area or contact with a confirmed case) becomes unwell whilst on site in a church building, please refer to section 1.5 of the guidance.

  1. Returning Travellers

Congregations should be reminded that people who have recently returned to the UK from certain countries or areas may need to take additional action. Check for the most up to date information.

Ministers who are advised to self-isolate (or who live with members of their family so advised) should not conduct services or pastoral visits and immediately inform their Presbytery Clerk. 

  1. Information posters for church buildings. 

Two posters are attached and are available here: 

  1. In addition to the above general guidance, the Board of Trustees advises:
  • No pastoral visits to those self-isolating.
  • Ask anyone with cold or flu symptoms to refrain from taking communion from a communal cup.
  • Kirk Sessions consider other areas e.g. handshaking on welcome to church, communion from a communal cup, and adapt as necessary, according to their own local assessment of risk.  

 The Board is monitoring the situation and will issue further guidance as the matter develops.