As the start of a new academic year begins, and students of all ages return to their studies, many people have been asking for a broad picture of where church services are up to across the nation of Wales.

What has become apparent during this season is that one size cannot fit all when it comes to reopening places of worship. Many services remain online; others are opening their buildings in order to broadcast live; a few churches are advertising for digital pastors to enable them to provide a more blended’ provision in the future; whereas some congregations have been able to gather in person. Hopefully, all these services have taken place whilst adhering to the guidance provided by the Welsh Government.

Where possible, Welsh Government advise places of worship to continue to broadcast worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or vulnerable to COVID-19. Their guidance is reviewed on a fairly regular basis; therefore it is worth putting a reminder in your diary to check for updates. Churches should also seek to adhere to the guidance provided by their denomination. Guidance issued by the Evangelical Alliance should not be relied upon for the purposes of legal advice.

Risk Assessments and cleaning

Most churches and / or denominations have already completed risk assessments in order to ensure the safe reopening of buildings. Further guidance can be found at:

Guidance has also been provided with regards to preparing a building after months of being empty and pays particular regard to tap water, ventilation, entrances and exits:

Leadership teams of course have a duty of care to ensure that buildings are cleaned thoroughly, thus minimising the risk of the infection being transmitted from various surfaces: https://​www​.gov​.uk/​g​o​v​e​r​n​m​e​n​t​/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​c​o​v​i​d​-​19​-​d​e​c​o​n​t​a​m​i​n​a​t​i​o​n​-​i​n​-​n​o​n​-​h​e​a​l​t​h​c​a​r​e​-​s​e​t​tings

Toilets at places of worship may be opened for the during of a meeting provided that social distancing and hand washing is adhered to:

Welsh Government have provided template signage which you may found useful. It is available in Welsh, English and multiple other languages:

Gathering face to face

Churches can now reopen for public worship services. There is no fixed limit for numbers attending indoor meetings as it is subject to the capacity of the building and maintaining physical distancing of 2 metres between households. Outdoor services have a maximum limit of 30 people, more guidance for which is available online. 

Anyone experiencing Covid-19 symptoms such as a continuous cough, a high temperature, a loss of or change to your normal sense of smell or taste should not attend a place of worship; neither should those who are quarantined having returned from holidays in various countries abroad or those who are self-isolating. Although shielding’ has now formally ended in Wales, it would be wise for those who were in this category to seek medical advice ahead of any proposed visit to a place of worship.

Attending weddings and funerals is by invitation only. Again, the number who can attend is subject to the capacity of the building. The latest guidance regarding marriage ceremonies can be found here, and guidance regarding funerals, here.

If at all possible full immersion baptisms should be avoided. However if essential, the use of a baptistery should follow the same guidance as swimming pools. Only one baptism should be allowed per session, after which the water should be drained, and the baptistery cleaned. To comply with physical distancing guidance, baptisms should either be by self-immersion (self-immersion means only the candidate should be in the baptistery or pool and not touched by anyone unless they are from the same household) or undertaken by a member of their household. 

Can we sing when we gather?

No congregational singing should take place. One soloist is allowed to lead worship, but if they are doing so in front of a congregation, it is advised that a screen should be placed between them. Likewise, woodwind and brass instruments and chanting are advised against.

Can children and youth activities take place?

Places of worship are now able to provide supervised activities for children up to the age of 18. These can include activities such as Sunday Schools,’ and children’s services. Welsh Government are actively reviewing’ youth activities in line with children and young people going back to school at the start of September. Their latest guidance can be found here.

What about small groups and home groups?

Currently, people should not gather indoors with anyone who is not a member of their household or extended household unless they have a good reason. Up to four households (usually family or close friends) may join together to form an extended household whereby meeting inside is possible. Once formed, these extended households may not be changed. However, meeting outdoors is permitted adhering to the guidelines provided here.

Do I have to wear a facemask?

Yes, places of worship are indoor public places and so the requirements will apply there as in other public places. We consider that those leading worship or a ceremony may have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if they cannot effectively do so while wearing one, as long as they have taken sufficient precautions such as staying continually over 2 metres away from others and/​or wearing a visor. Please check with your particular denomination and / or church ahead of a service to avoid embarrassment. 

Are face coverings required in wedding ceremonies?

Guests will need to wear face coverings, but given the importance to couples of the ceremony and the level of risk involved, we consider it is reasonable for the couple to remove their coverings for a kiss, for taking vows and for a first dance”, as long as other measures are in place to protect people attending the ceremony from the risk of contracting coronavirus (e.g. guests staying 2 metres away from the couple at all times). Please check with your particular denomination and / or church ahead of a service to avoid embarrassment.

Should you need to use public transport in order to get to a place of worship, you will be required to wear a facemask. Details of this can be found here.

You can make your own reusable mask following this guidance. Just make sure that it is stored in a plastic bag until you use it and wash it at the highest temperature appropriate for the fabric.

Local guidance for residents of Caerphilly