Approaching Phases 2 and 3 of Scotland’s Route Map Through and Out of the Crisis
We are currently in Phase 1 of the Route Map. At this stage we are permitted to meet outdoors once a day with members of another household, in a maximum gathering of 8 people, maintaining physical distancing of 2 metres. This is presenting a welcome opportunity for re-connecting face-to-face with family members and friends. Many churches are also using this freedom to ensure everyone in the fellowship experiences some face-to-face contact with others.
A. Phase 2
In the coming weeks the Scottish Government is expected to announce a move to Phase 2 of the Route Map. As far as churches are concerned, this will permit the opening of places of worship for individual prayer.
The first question Baptist churches will ask is, is this relevant to us? Most of our churches would not normally be open for individual prayer in the church building. Our theology of the church does not suggest our personal prayers are enriched by being offered in a particular building. Therefore, many Baptist churches may not make changes in phase 2.
Some churches may decide during phase 2 to open their buildings for individual prayer, either as a resource for their own congregation or a mission opportunity. In this case the following considerations must be taken seriously:
- No one who has symptoms of Covid-19 or who is self-isolating may enter the building.
- Measures must be put in place to ensure everyone in the building or queuing outside keeps a strict physical distance of 2 metres. This will require chairs to be set out accordingly and the provision of clear floor markings and signage.
- Hand sanitisers should be available for use on entry and exit.
- Well-trained stewards must ensure these requirements are fulfilled.
- A regular cleaning schedule should be established, with frequently touched surfaces such as chairs, doors, door handles, light switches, sinks and toilets being cleaned frequently. Guidance on cleaning during Covid-19 can be found here.
- A risk assessment should be written, ensuring all the above issues are being properly addressed.
Current guidance from the Scottish Government states that only church premises can open for individual prayer and not community buildings owned by other bodies. Also, it is not permissible for anyone to lead others in prayer in this setting or for people to meet together to pray. The provision is exclusively intended to meet a desire for individual prayer.
B. Phase 3
In due course, possibly as early as mid-July if progress is positive, we will enter Phase 3 of the Route Map. At this point places of worship will be able to open to extended groups, subject to physical distancing and hygiene safeguards. Many Baptist churches will hope to resume meeting together during this phase. Some key questions to consider as you approach this stage are:
- Can you fit everyone in? Given the physical distancing requirements (see below for more detail), will the whole congregation be able to gather at the same time? If not, how will youaddress this? Will you specify different sub-groups of the congregation who can meet on different occasions? How will you deal with turning away people who turn up without an invitation and cannot be fitted in?
- How will you include people who are not able or willing to gather? This will include those who are at high-risk of infection, especially older people, those with chronic conditions and those who are required to self-isolate.
- How will this work for children? A safe return to meeting together must ensure the wellbeing of children and that expectations of them are realistic.
- Will a digital experience of worship continue and, if so, how? Will this meet a need for those who cannot attend?
Some churches may decide that resuming Sunday worship in Phase 3 is not appropriate for them. No church should feel pressure to begin meeting together until it is sure it can do so safely and for the overall good of the congregation.
Given that Phase 3 permits meeting with people from more than one household indoors with physical distancing and hygiene measures, some churches may decide to focus on home-based meetings as a first step towards full gatherings of the church during Phase 4.
C. Preparing To Meet Together during Phase 3
For churches who do decide to begin meeting together in their church premises during Phase 3, the following steps are essential.
Make clear that no one should attend who has symptoms of Covid-19 or who is required to self-isolate because another member of their household is symptomatic or because of contact tracing.
The building should be set out to enable physical distancing of two metres between each person or household. This will mean carefully measuring distances between seats, marking safe pathways on the floor and installing appropriate signage to remind people to maintain physical distance. It may be necessary to set up a one-way system.
Since the building will not have been used for some time, thorough cleaning is important prior to re-opening. Due to the risk of legionella, it is also wise to run taps for 20 minutes and flush all toilets. Once the building is in use, a regular routine of cleaning must be in place, with frequently touched surfaces such as chairs, doors, door handles, light switches, sinks and toilets being cleaned more frequently. Guidance on cleaning during Covid-19 can be found here.
Books, Bibles, notice sheets and offering Songbooks, ‘pew Bibles’, and other literature should be cleared away. Notice-sheets or other handouts should not be used. Offering plates may be placed on a table but not passed round. Anyone counting the offering should do so wearing protective gloves.
Congregational singing should not take place; potentially infectious droplets are projected further when singing so the 2 metre physical distance is insufficient for reasonable protection.
Food and Drinks
No refreshments, including drinks, should be served in the church building.
Communion and Baptisms
It is not possible to share bread and wine in communion or perform baptisms.
Arrival and Departure
Where possible the building doors should be left open for arrivals and departures. Hand-sanitiser should be available on arrival and departure. People should enter and leave one at a time, avoiding clustering and maintaining a 2 metre distance from others.
Well-trained stewards should provide a welcome at a 2 metre distance. They must remind everyone to observe physical distancing and be bold enough to challenge anyone who is not doing this. Once the building is at capacity they must ensure no one else enters.
These should be cleaned more regularly than usual. Only one person should be allowed in the toilets at a time.
A risk assessment should be produced which identifies the risks of meeting together and shows the steps you are taking to mitigate these.