Advice for Churches, Lodges and other Considering how to Worship during lockdown

From Sunday, 22 March, many churches across the UK have moved their services online, and church activities such as Alpha and small groups are following suit. Following the latest government measures this is now be required.

For the health of congregations, communities and our country, churches must not meet physically. This affects not only Sunday services but all gatherings, regardless of their size. This is not only following good advice to limit the spread of coronavirus, but is now against the law. 

There are a number of ways churches can operate online and care will be required to ensure they do not compromise the spirit and letter of the Government’s measures. The safest option is for contributors to either record content or broadcast live from their own houses. If filming or streaming content from your church can be done simply, this would also be an acceptable approach. Government guidance says:

A minister of religion or worship leader may leave their home to travel to their place of worship. A place of worship may broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise.”

The first issue many churches and smaller denominations or fellowships faced was the legal definition of church and ‘minister of religion’. We are pleased to confirm that the  government have finally clarified to the Evangelical Alliance that ​a minister of religion’ can include lay leaders, and volunteer camera operators and technicians can be included assuming they maintain appropriate social distance. The number of people involved should be kept to an absolute minimum and if travel and bringing people together can be avoided this is preferable. This however allows a certain freedom to those who wish to continue their churches work online.

The key problem was with churches not meeting physically on Sundays, how can they still support one another and witness to their community? We have worked with a number of churches, and religious groups to help them digitalise their work. We have worked with a group of church communications professionals have put together resources to help churches with their activities now they are not meeting physically together – this regularly updated document is available here.

In the light of the current guidance, pastoral visits to people in self-isolation should not take place in person, and phone and video calls should be used where possible. While not explicitly mentioned pastoral visits to those who are not self-isolating should be avoided as this is likely to be considered non-essential contact beyond your household. Make use of phone and video calls to provide support for your congregation, and possibly a letter through the door on your daily walk.

As noted above, guidance from the Government is now clear that church buildings cannot remain open for private prayer. The only further exception is for the continuation of essential services such as food banks or homeless shelters.

The Independent Loyal Orange Institution  values Rights with Responsibilities and at a time when we see our way of life and our civil liberties limited in response to the threat from this virus we have focused on solutions with balance our individual rights with our societal responsibilities

The current measures are being taken to limit the spread of the virus, and it is anticipated the UK will see rates of infection similar to those in Spain and Italy over the coming weeks. However social connection, faith, culture, heritage and sport all play a crucial part in our national identity, way of life and personal well being. We are happy to help businesses, churches, charities and communities as they stay safe but stay active. Together we will find ways to carry on.