England

As of Thursday 5 November, England is under national lockdown once again. The law now requires all places of worship to close for this period apart form narrow exemptions. Worship services and most other activity that takes place in the church is not permitted. Weddings are also not permitted during lockdown except in exceptional circumstances — narrowly defined as when either the bride or groom is unlikely to live for much longer. 

After the 2 December England will return to a tiered system based on local authorities, under this approach churches will be able to meet for in person gatherings in all tiers. There will be some variation in the level of social interaction permitted depending on which tier you are in. 

Places of worship may only be used for the following specific reasons:

  • Funerals (of up to 30 people) and linked ceremonial events (of up to 15 people)
  • To broadcast or record an act of worship

We are awaiting final guidelines from the government regarding this, but this only allows those working or volunteering and are essential for the content of the service or technical support of its delivery to be present. Musicians and singers who would normally be part of the act of worship may participate but only if essential, and the overall number should be kept to a minimum.

  • Individual prayer

You may only attend a place of worship for private prayer and reflection on your own or with those from your household. 

  • Formal childcare or where part of a school

This is unlikely to include most churches’ children or youth ministry but is slightly wider than just Ofsted registered childcare or education. More detail is available online from the Department for Education.

  • Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks
  • Other exempted activities such as some support groups 

Support groups that require people to be physically present are able to continue through this lockdown. This includes, but is not limited to, groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, bereavement groups, and groups for new parents. Children under five and those working do not count towards the cap of 15 people. 

Wales

Churches and places of worship are closed until the end of the firebreak lockdown on 9 November. After this date places of worship will be permitted to reopen and the expectation is that this will be with the same restrictions as prior to the firebreak. The limit of 15 people on gatherings will not apply to churches and other places of worship.

More information about the regulations for Wales after the firebreak is available here.

Scotland

The different local authority areas of Scotland are currently placed in one of five different tiers each with specific restrictions and regulations aimed at tackling the level of coronavirus in that area. Currently no local authorities are in the Tier 0 which has measures similar to over the summer, and no authorities in Tier 4 which has the strongest measures. 

The rules for places of worship are broadly the same for tiers 0 – 3, where up to 50 people can attend. These are the same rules that have been in place since they were allowed to reopen in July. In Tier 4 only 20 people are permitted to attend. 

The rules for weddings and funerals also allow for different numbers of participants in different tiers.

Weddings:

  • Tier 0 — up to 50 people
  • Tiers 1 – 3 — up to 20 people
  • Tier 4 — up to 15 people (and no receptions permitted)

Funerals:

  • Tier 0 — up to 50 people
  • Tiers 1 – 4 — up to 20 people

Further information of the Scottish five tier system is available here.

Northern Ireland

Places of worship in Northern Ireland are required to close during the circuit breaker’ lockdown between 27 November and 11 December. There is an exception for weddings and funerals which are permitted with a maximum of 25 people attending.