As Covid rules have been strengthened in response to concern over the new Omicron variant, the United Reformed Church (URC) Synod Moderators provide updated advice to churches:
The situation in Scotland and Wales has not changed with Boris Johnson’s latest announcements from Downing Street. It is a continuing legal requirement for everyone aged 12 or over in Scotland and 11 and over in Wales, unless they are exempt, to wear a face covering in indoor public space (including churches).
The Prime Minister has tightened Covid regulations in England in response to the emerging Omicron variant of concern.
In England it is now mandatory to wear face covering in shops and settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers, as well as public transport, unless you are exempt. The position remains that we are also encouraged and expected to wear one in “crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.”
Most of us spend much less time in a single shop than we do in Sunday worship, and the risks of transmission, even with other mitigations properly in effect and the high level of vaccination, are greater in churches than in many other enclosed settings where our members would typically find themselves.
The Synod Moderators agree that as a continuing act of respect and love for neighbour, people using URC buildings in England should also wear face coverings, unless they are medically exempt. Please remember that our aim in worship is to firstly to glorify God and secondly to build up the church: it matters much less if the technical qualities of our singing are a little hampered by face masks.
Please redouble your efforts to see that masks fit well and cover the mouth and nose properly at all times, unless you are taking part in leading worship and are properly physically distanced from others.
Elders’ meetings have the legal responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of their staff, volunteers and visitors, and so the Moderators strongly urge churches to revisit and update their risk assessment and make sure all appropriate steps are taken to maximise safety whenever we gather together.
Churches are also reminded of the continuing importance of simple measures like ventilation, good hand hygiene and the use of tissues for coughs and sneezes followed by hand washing or sanitisation within the “Catch it, bin it, kill it” advice.
The Synod Moderators
1st December 2021