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Last updated 28th May 2020

COVID19 church buildings advice

This page provide advice on how to care for chuch buildings and grounds whilst they are closed for worship

You will be used to managing your buildings. However there are things that you may wish to consider as your church is shut during the COVID crisis - and to plan ahead for their eventual re-opening.

Further guidance can be accessed from the Ecclesiastical Insurance COVID webpages in particular for their customers temporary cover enhancements (and conditions)

You may wish to use this poster on the church door/noticeboard to explain that the church is closed.

Church Buildings Council advice (07/04/2020)

This document in a Q &A format was produced by the Church Buildings Council on 27th March and updated on 3rd April.

  • Please use wisdom and intelligence to make sensible, local decisions on how you apply advice on the management of your buildings. It is not possible to answer ever detailed question and you know your own circumstances best. Trust your judgement!
  • Advice in especially tricky situations can be sought from the DAC via the Secretary, Christine Ellis (christine.ellis@Blackburn.Anglican.Org). The Archdeacons also remain available.

Access to church buildings during lockdown - advice for incumbents, churchwardens and PCC members (28/05/2020)

The national Church of England have produced a helpful set of questions and answers covering a number of topics about access to churches here, ideally they should be read in conjunction with the diocesan advice on returning to our church buildings here.

Advice circulated by Diocesan COVID Task Group (24/03/2020)

Utilities

  • Heating – turn down thermostats to ‘frost-stat’. Turn off heating completely when weather gets warmer.
  • Water – turn off main stop tap (if easy to do so) to prevent water leaks. 
  • If you haven’t drained down the water system - Open each tap for 30 seconds and flush each of the toilets once per week to avoid stagnant water.
  • Switch off all electrical appliances at the wall socket.

The Reserved Sacrament (if your parish reserves)

  • If it is possible to renew the Reserved Sacrament from time to time, it is best to continue to reserve.
  • If this is not possible, the Sacrament should be reverently consumed, the door of the aumbry should be left open and the sanctuary light extinguished.

Refuse/waste

  • Empty any bins in the building(s) into the main waste bins.
  • Put out the waste bins as usual for current waste already in external bins – visit your local authority’s web page to keep up to date with advice about frequency of collections.
  • Remove flowers from the church. 

Perishable goods hygiene

  • Empty fridges/freezers, clean/de-frost and switch off if possible. Leave de-frosted fridge/freezer doors open
  • Remove any perishable goods held on site – including in the church.

Security/Fire prevention

  • Alarm – set alarm.
  • Key holders – produce a list of keyholders and those who are available to respond to issues? Consider having deputies – especially if keyholders have to self-isolate
  • Undertake a weekly walk around the buildings externally and internally (this is permissible under the government guidance which allows everyone exercise each day).
    • Have a nominated person (ideally the priest if they live close or another near neighbour) with a nominated deputy in case of self-isolation/illness. If your priest doesn’t live on site/immediately adjacent to the church, consider contacting people you know who live close to the buildings and ask them to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Do not encourage regular trips to the church property.
    • Where practicable the person who is visiting should have a mobile phone with them, inform someone when they start doing the check and when they have completed it.
    • The person doing the checks should follow good handwashing practice and clean surfaces they have touched (especially doorhandles and metal).
  • Emergency maintenance – Please note that the faculty process continues, so please contact Christine Ellis as usual for advice. The archdeacons are also available. Michael Kellett, The Diocesan Surveyor can also be contacted in emergencies for advice (07384 544228) 
  • Lock valuables away in the safe 
  • Remove any cash eg in wall safes and lock in the safe
  • Music/sound equipment – lock away out of sight where feasible.
  • Close all internal doors to reduce the impact of any fire
  • Ensure you don’t store any combustible materials against the buildings to prevent arson

Grounds

  • Grass-cutting of churchyards – continue whilst people allowed to be outside. It’s not a priority though of course we should continue to have a safe environment for any visitors.

Insurance

  • It is wise to consult your insurer about what level of insurance is appropriate for a building that is likely to remained closed for some time. You may also wish to discuss with your insurers about continuing insurance of specific items of value. 

Contractors accessing buildings during lockdown (19/05/2020)

A note has been received from Bp Sarah Mullally, 'I am writing to you in my capacity as chair the House of Bishops' new “Recovery Group”, set up to support the Church as it moves towards the staged reopening of our buildings as restrictions relating to the coronavirus pandemic are eased by the Government.

As part of that we are actively working on a suite of resources offering advice to churches as they begin to plan for Government restrictions being eased. 

As a first step, two advice papers have been produced on more technical aspects of the current restrictions, dealing with bringing in professional contractors to closed buildings here and access to buildings for construction work here

Returning to our church buildings (28/05/2020)

As further information becomes available on how relaxation of lockdown measures may happen, the Church of England are providing additional resources that have been incorprated in to our guidance checklist. 

The updated guidance checklist document here produced by the Diocesan Coronavirus Task Group provides a checklist for parish clergy/ churchwardens/ PCC members for three scenarios:

  • a) A priest, or nominated lay-person, may choose to enter their church(es) for private prayer and record/livestream services alone or with members of their household – From 7th May 2020 (shared via the Coronavirus briefing on 7th May)

Currently, from 4th July (at the earliest):

  • b) The church may be opened to the public for private prayer; assuming social distancing can be maintained
  • c) The church may be opened for public worship; with limited numbers and assuming social distancing can be maintained