COVID guidance – 10 December

10 December 2021

The following guidance was shared with all clergy, wardens and lay chairs today as part of a letter from the Bishop of Oxford.

Diocesan Emergency Planning Group

Much of the national guidance for churches (links below) remains the same. Churches know what they’re doing and are well practised in dealing with COVID safely in their local context.

However, we know that the rapidly growing infection rates and (for some) the changes to the guidance have raised new questions and concerns, especially where parishes are in vacancy.

To assist local decision making we strongly recommend the following:

  • Collaborative decision making
    Whilst decision making lies with the incumbent, wherever it is possible, we would encourage a collaborative approach to local decision making.
  • Update your risk assessments
    Risk assessments remain important for your duty of care towards all and  also your insurance cover. It is a good idea to update your local risk management document in all contexts (midweek groups, social outreach etc), and please begin to think through graduated responses as the situation changes for better or worse in the coming weeks.
  • Services and hospitality
    Continue with planned on-site services if you are able to do so, and strive to offer ways for people to join in online. You may want to review post-service hospitality arrangements if space is tight and or infection rates continue to rapidly rise.
  • Mask wearing and singing
    Legislation on mask-wearing is seemingly contradictory in places. It is a legal requirement to wear a mask in services, but there is an exemption for singing even though singing increases transmission risk. We strongly recommend mask-wearing, including sung worship, though, of course, a choir or music group may wish to sing without masks.
  • Common Cup and The Peace
    Exercise extreme caution around the use of the Common Cup, if your parish has returned to using it. Everyone should continue with sharing the peace in a socially distanced way.
  • Regular testing
    It’s a good idea for all clergy, leadership teams and church officers to take a lateral flow test ahead of services.
  • Local schools
    Do keep your local schools in your prayers. School leadership teams are facing an uncertain January with new testing regimes.

Useful links