This page brings together the guidance on various topics relating to the operation of church buildings during the Covid pandemic, including information about providing safe access and carrying out building works.
Guidance on accessing and reopening church buildings:
There is extensive national guidance on various considerations relating to providing safe public access. All guidance notes are available on the Church of England web page for Covid matters (accessible here), with particular reference to the section on "Fabric and Building Maintenance". Direct links to some key documents are provided below:
This church-specific guidance draws on government guidance, as linked to below:
- Guidance for the safe use of places of worship
- Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities (relevant to churches who run community facilities within the church building or in a church hall)
- Guidance on working at heritage locations (relevant to churches that welcome tourists and other visitors in addition to worshippers)
Guidance on carrying out works to buildings to enable safe use and worship:
In order to make church buildings safe to access, it might be necessary to make physical changes. It might also be necessary to change elements of worship to cater to a mixed audience or people present in the building or tuning in to streamed services from home. Some works will be minor and temporary in nature and will therefore not require permission, but some will require PCCs to obtain permissions.
National guidance has been issued, providing a broadbrush outline of the types of works that might be undertaken and the general principles to consider:
National guidance on permissions for temporary safety works
A Frequently Asked Questions has been prepared specifically for our diocese, which outlines in more detail the types of permissions that will be required for different types of works to make the building safe for all visitors and to enable safe worship specifically:
Leeds DAC guidance on permissions for safe use of buildings.
The diocesan guidance document will be developed and updated as we receive more queries and if the Diocesan Chancellor deems it appropriate to adjust his advice on what permissions are required. It currently covers works that might be necessary for the more immediate term in order to reopen church buildings for private prayer, as well as how to introduce changes that might be needed to cater to new formats of worship, including streaming services for internet sites.
(The Church of England has also produced national guidance on the use of churches as vaccination centres and what considerations should be made in this: Churches as Vaccination Centres)
Audiovisual installations and streaming:
In addition to the information about permissions for installing equipment in the guidance note above, more comprehensive information on various aspects and considerations relating to streaming can be found in our toolkit, produced in collaboration with our Communications department:
Broadcasting Worship Online.
There is also a national guidance note, with incorporates various links: Livestreaming Worship.
If you are not yet ready to use your church buliding, you may want to think about making the most of your churchyard to provide services and space for the community (if you are lucky enough to have a churchyard). To help you think about this possibility, see the links below:
Security of church buildings:
Some churches will not yet feel ready or able to reopen, or will be opened on a reduced basis. Those churches may find the following guidance from West Yorkshire police helpful, which provides a list for security and safety checks:
Guidance on carrying out other works to buildings during the pandemic:
Currently, it is now possible to carry out construction work, providing national guidance about safe working is followed, as this is work of a nature that cannot be done from home. It is also possible to schedule in other visits by professionals, including quinquennial inspections by your inspecting architect. If any professional is visiting your church, you must consider the safety both of that person and of any church volunteer who is providing access. This includes ensuring risk assessments have been prepared and are available for all parties. Further information is available in the national guidance document:
Opening church buildings for works to the building and interior
There is also a template risk assessment under the Fabric and Building Maintenance section of the Church of England Covid-19 guidance page.
Before carrying out work to church buildings, the appropriate permissions must be obtained as usual. However, it is recognised that we are operating in unusual circumstances. In our diocese, the Chancellor has provided specific advice on matters relating to the operation of the Faculty Jurisdiction during this period of closure. This includes the removal of the requirement to post up physical public notices when you are applying for a faculty, with public consultation instead taking place via other means such as websites and social media. More information about this is available from the DAC staff.
Access for bell-ringing:
The Central Council of Church Bell Ringers has produced its own specific advice on accessing churches for bell-ringing:
CCCBR advice on bell-ringing