CHURCH OF ENGLAND Covid guidance has been updated for the first time since July (News, 23 July). The website continues to advise clergy and church leaders to make their own decisions based on their congregation and the needs in their area, but it reminds people that rates are high across the country, and urges the take-up of booster vaccinations.
“Vaccination cannot be the sole means of containing the spread of the virus,” it states. “Hand and respiratory hygiene, social distancing, face-coverings and good ventilation are also important factors in lessening the spread of the disease. While these are not mandatory, they are still important public health mitigations, and can help to minimise risk when planning public worship and other church activities.”
In Derbyshire, the Area Dean of Mercia, the Revd Dr Mike Firbank, has reported “a level of anxiety” among those responsible for keeping people safe. “I am encouraging people to remember their masks and maintain social distancing,” he said. “I see how secondary schools are introducing mask-wearing again in communal areas, and some primary schools thought they might have to close before half term, as cases among adults in schools were so high.”
The south-west has had the most cases over the past seven days. A spokeswoman for the diocese of Exeter said that some churches in Devon were continuing to ask for masks to be worn for services and social-distancing guidance to be followed. “Since July, our churches have been deciding their Covid policies based on their own local risk assessments, with the diocese of Exeter offering advice and guidance as needed,” she said. “We understand that mask-wearing and social distancing has continued in a number of churches, as has live-streaming services, to enable people to watch them from home. We will continue to monitor case rates in the south-west carefully.”
In Gloucestershire, which has also had some of the highest case rates in the country, churches were continuing “to assess levels of risk and take appropriate action for their local context”, the diocese said.
Traffic-light lanyards are to be used during the new General Synod’s first meeting of the quinquennium, from 16 to 17 November at Church House, Westminster, to enable members to indicate how close they wish others to be.
Green lanyards will show that the wearer is not concerned with social distancing (or that they are “open to a hug”, one Synod member suggested), while amber will ask others to maintain some level of social distancing; red lanyards will suggest that the full two-metre social distancing should be observed.
For those who do not wish to designate themselves, black lanyards will be available, a Church House spokesperson said.
It will be the first in-person meeting of the Synod for two years, and is due to take place in the midst of a continuing high Covid case-rate across the UK.
Read the updated guidance here