Leadership in Lockdown

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Restarting Gatherings in Scotland (Webinar)

Now that the lockdown restrictions are being relaxed on church buildings in Scotland, what should churches there be thinking about ahead of reopening for worship services?


Watch/Listen on:

We are now into Phase 3 of the Scottish Government's planning. The guidance for the safe use of places of worship is effective from Wednesday 15th July 2020. We would advise church leaders to read the full guidance themselves before resuming such services.

A special Leadership in Lockdown webinar took place on Tuesday 21 July with Andy Hunter to explore what restarting gatherings in Scotland will look like. You can watch above or listen via podcast using the links above.

Below is a summary of the guidance given for the resumption of physical church services – but please ensure you have read the Scottish Government guidance too.

Purpose of Guidance

The published guidance notes:

The guidance is not intended to provide a checklist approach. Places of worship should use their judgement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and communities, based on relevant legislation and guidance and individual circumstances.

Churches will need to ensure they take all reasonable precautions in order to protect attendees and the wider community – as a failure to do so could result in a breach of Health & Safety legislation or their own Insurance requirements. It will be hard to argue that all such reasonable precautions were undertaken if guidance is ignored.

Place of Worship Definition

An indoor or enclosed outdoor space (e.g. a courtyard).

  • Outdoor gatherings are subject to the general rules that only permit a max of 15 people from up to 5 different households. Those responsible for the place of worship (e.g. Trustees) will need to decide whether to reopen – but should not do so if they cannot safely adhere to the Scottish Government guidelines.

Worshippers and volunteers should not attend if:

  • Displaying any Covid-19 symptoms;
  • Are in a shielding category.

Data Collection

The following information should be kept for all volunteers, staff & worshippers attending (for 21 days):

  • Names;
  • Contact Phone Number;
  • Dates & Times present in the building.

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment should be carried out prior to any reopening.

Here are some helpful resources to assist you in completing a risk assessment:

Social Distancing

All attendees (household groups) should be kept two metres apart while on church premises.

  • Seating should be separated/cordoned off accordingly;
  • Markings, signage and one-way systems should be set out to keep worshippers apart;
  • Entrances and exits should ideally be different – with people flows to ensure no conflicts of movement in the building;
  • Entry and exit of worshippers should be staggered and managed to avoid pinch points (queuing outside if necessary);
  • Numbers using toilets should be restricted to ensure distancing.

Use of Building

Maximum Numbers

  • Maximum of 50 people can attend a service – regardless of the size of the building.


  • Should maintain physical distancing in the building;
  • Shared toys etc should be removed.

Hygiene & Cleaning

  • Hand hygiene facilities should be available in key areas (e.g. entrances and exits);
  • Windows should be opened where possible to increase ventilation;
  • Provide cleaning wipes for attendees to wipe down their seats or touched surfaces before leaving;
  • Increased cleaning of communal areas (in accordance with safe cleaning procedures);
  • Increased cleaning of toilets (in accordance with safe cleaning procedures);
  • Remove communal items (e.g. shared hymnbooks, Bibles);
  • Remove unnecessary items or cordon-off unneeded areas – to reduce cleaning requirements.

Face Coverings

  • Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces where there is a risk of close contact with non-household members.

Worship Activities

  • No singing or chanting;
  • No unnecessary touching of objects;
  • A soloist may sing if behind a plexiglass screen;
  • No wind (breath) instruments (organs & other instruments allowed);
  • Shared items removed (e.g. Bibles / Hymnbooks).


Communion is allowed but:

  • No communal utensils;
  • Food stuffs strictly to be prepared in accordance with hygiene regulations;
  • Churches should work out strict procedures to ensure safe distribution in advance;
  • No speaking across food and drink.


  • By sprinkling only (no full immersion).


  • Discouraged (receptacle not to be passed around).


  • Worshippers should leave the building promptly.


  • Churches should engage and communicate with attendees and visitors with regard to what activities will take place and the measures required to do so safely.

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