What Does the ‘Rule of Six’ mean for Church Services and Meetings?
On the 4th of July 2020, the Government allowed public worship to resume. Whilst in England there was a general legal limit on gatherings of no more than 30, for worship services this can be exceeded if there has been an assessment of risk and the venue can safely accommodate a greater number while social distancing is maintained.
Combe Down PCC has conducted such Risk Assessments in line with Government and Church of England guidance. Sample Risk Assessments, Guidelines for Leaders and Guidelines for Attendees were published via the website blog and are also sent by the office to all who need to see and action them
Key Points are:
The number of people able to attend services depends on how many can safely be accommodated, observing appropriate physical distancing and hygiene measures.
The two-metre ‘rule’ applies for public worship except in situations where closer contact cannot be avoided; extra Public Health precautions must then be taken.
Face coverings are currently mandatory in places of worship and church halls. While there are exemptions, this is a legal requirement.
Did you know the Health and Safety Executive has enforcement powers, and in the absence of a risk assessment, or an inadequate assessment of risk, they can shut down premises and potentially bring criminal charges? Also, failure to follow clear government guidance can invalidate insurance.
The Rule of Six
The extra regulations that came into force on 14th of September 2020 prohibited more than six people from gathering in the same place unless there is a valid exemption. Attending a place of worship and participating in a worship service is a valid exemption,
but people must not attend in groups larger than six (unless they are solely from one household group or bubble)
and ‘While attending a place where more than six people are permitted a person cannot: “otherwise mingle with any person who is participating in the gathering but is not a member of the same qualifying group as them”.
What does this mean for Church Services, Bible Study Groups or Home Groups
The number of people that can meet on church premises remains the same as calculated for services of worship above. However, the rule of six now means that people at any gathering in the church must be divided into groups of no more than 6 (unless in the same household) and those groups cannot interact with each other.
Example: A homegroup of 15 can meet but would have to divide into at least 3 groups. Members of one group must not talk or otherwise interact with members of a separate group but can talk within their group. The group membership should remain fixed. The whole thing can be led from the front as in a service. The groups should also leave the church at different times so no mingling takes place.
· Holy Trinity and St Andrews are Covid secure venues which means
· Between 30 – 100 people are permitted in the building provided
· Everyone follows the guidance about remaining Covid Secure including
· Wearing a mask (a legal requirement but with some exemptions) and
· Keeping a 2-metre distance from people outside your household but
· People must remain in a Group of no more than 6 and
· Groups must not mingle
Group means between 1 and 6 people. If not from the same household or fixed support bubble group members must still maintain social distance from each other.
Social Distance means 2 metres between people
Rules for meetings at home are different
No more than six people are permitted to be in the house in total, including those not taking part in the group at that time AND only if there is space for the group to remain socially distant from each other.
As a responsible person the host should give thought on how to make toilet facilities available, how to consume refreshments, improve air flow and the use of face masks etc. but it is not the Church’s responsibility to monitor this in any way.