Cancellation of church services and other updates
Published on 17 March, 2020
Worship - Cancellation of Services
The Scottish Government now advises that people should minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations, and smaller gatherings.
The Church of Scotland now asks, in the strongest terms, that all gatherings for worship should cease until further notice, with effect from Tuesday 17 March 2020. Other Scottish Churches are taking similar actions.This obviously includes Easter services. Some Presbyteries have already instructed this action. This will include, but not be restricted to: housegroups, meetings for youth work, and church cafes. It will still be possible for an individual to offer a livestream of a sermon and prayers. Further information on livestreaming, including information on copyright, can be found in this circular on the Law Department’s webpageshere. Sunday broadcasts of a weekly service take place on Radio 4, and also on Radio Scotland; other radio stations are available. Several churches currently offer livestreams or recorded services; a list can befound on our website.
Church buildings can be kept open as a place for people to come and pray.Notices should be clearly displayed asking that visitors observe robust hand hygiene.
The Moderator, the Right Reverend Colin Sinclair, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and other church leaders, has issued a call for a National Day of Prayer; more details can be found in thenews section of our website.
The Church is aware that closing down worship services will impact on congregational income, and we want to encourage people to continue contributing financially as far as possible, and to encourage the increased use of standing orders as an expression of ongoing stewardship.
The key phrase here is to minimise social contact. Sensitive conversations will need to take place with families and mourners ahead of funeral ceremonies, and to consider the size of groups gathering for funerals. It may be necessary in the future to consider whether funerals should be restricted exclusively to minister, immediate family, and funeral directors. In addition, local guidance from funeral directors and crematorium staff will be critical here. It should be noted that many crematoria have the facility to livestream services and to host a recording of services for a period of time after the cremation service.
Certain venues will be restricting attendance, and it may be that couples have to work through what changes have to made, including, in some cases, rearranging. Restrictions on travel into the UK will also have an effect on guests at weddings. Again, sensitive conversations will be the order of the day.
Pastoral Care Networks
Please see ourguidance note from the Church’s Safeguarding Department with some useful guidance about setting up small pastoral care networks with a practical outcome. This guidance note contains a postcard which may be useful. There are some good ideas here about small groups; such groups can mitigate social isolation, and help people to continue to feel that they are part of the wider community of faith. Previous advice about using tools such as Skype, email, letters, greetings cards, Facetime, and Whatsapp groups are all useful approaches and some of these are particularly helpful where people don’t use technology.
The decision has been taken in the light of Scottish Government advice tocancel the General Assemblyof May 2020. The Office of the General Assembly will be in touch with commissioners separately.
Best hygiene practice should continue to be observed in all pastoral contacts.
Updated advice is available fromNHS Scotland.
Public Health Scotland andthe UK Government recommend that you should take usual infection prevention precautions including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available
- Churches can underline the importance of handwashing by ensuring that hand sanitisers are not available in toilets where soap and water can be used
- It is particularly important after taking public transport to use sanitiser on your hands
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Carry tissues to catch coughs and sneezes and bin the tissue
- If you feel unwell, stay at home, do not attend work or school
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in church buildings
NHS Scotland haveprepared a poster which could be displayed at your building entrance to give advice to visitors. The purpose of this poster is to protect the visitor and those within the building.
Advice has also been issued to travellers, advising against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice was revised on 17 March.
Below are two posters which you may wish to display in your buildings.
This page will be updated when new advice becomes available from NHS Scotland and the UK Government.
Several churches live stream or post their services online. You can find a list of these onour Kirk services online page.
We havea helpful guidance document for any churches considering live streaming or publishing audio recordings of services.