Pastoral care

Updated 7 January 2021

We understand that those involved in providing Pastoral Care may wish to consider the reintroduction of in-person visits. Pastoral Visits should be for a clear purpose, not simply a ‘social call’.

Where no exemption can be used for such a visit then the indoor socialising numbers as set by the Scottish Government for the area in which the visit occurs should be followed.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the current restrictions on individuals visiting another person’s home apply to social visits and does not apply to visits for the purpose of providing essential care and support. This means that pastoral visits for purposes such as to give communion or prayer are permitted. However, if for any reason more than one household is present in the home a visit should not take place. No minister, elder or member of staff should feel compelled to visit another home at this time. Prior to an elder or pastoral volunteer undertaking such a visit they should ensure that they discuss the matter fully with the Parish Minister or Interim Moderator.

In an enhanced level 4 area Scottish Government guidance says that it is permissible to go to someone’s house to provide emotional support to someone whose wellbeing is at risk, including those who are isolated. Ministers, deacons and those undertaking pastoral care must make a judgement as to whether a personal visit is required as opposed to an online meeting or telephone call, bearing in mind this threshold. Where appropriate a minister, deacon or pastoral visitor may also meet an individual for pastoral care in a church previously approved to open by presbytery or a manse subject to the threshold above being met and protocols on pastoral visiting in the Church guidance being followed.

If you are within a levels 3 or 4 area then Pastoral Care Visits should only take place where they are deemed to be essential and if possible should be moved online. Extreme care should be taken if a visit is to take place in people’s homes, churches or manses and all relevant health guidance followed.

Those involved with visits should consider the following control measures:

  • No individual should feel a pressure to enter another person’s home and conduct a visit
  • The invitation to enter a home should always come from the person receiving the visit. This should always be arranged in advance and there should be no pressure felt by the person receiving the visit to allow access to their home should they not feel comfortable.
  • Visits may take place indoors or outdoors subject to the rules on maximum number and physical distancing
  • If a funeral is being arranged and the person leading the services wishes to visit the family in their home, they must ensure in advance that the family is aware of the limitations on the maximum number of people allowed to be present. The person leading the funeral may wish to meet the family in the church building if it has been granted permission to open, to ensure that they have more control of the maximum numbers.
  • Should maximum numbers at any visit be exceeded the visit should not begin (if it has not started) or be brought to a swift conclusion and the visitor should then leave
  • Good hand hygiene practices should be observed at all times, and it is recommended that the visitor takes a small supply of alcohol-based hand gel with them. The visitor or the person receiving the minister may wish to wear a face covering.
  • If the visitor is concerned about the hygiene practices within the home they may wish to suggest a visit takes place in the church building should permission have been granted for the building to open.

Congregations must ensure that they follow any advice from the Scottish Government or local health protection teams, relating to the temporary restrictions or prohibition of pastoral visits as a result of a localised outbreak of COVID-19.

It may be possible to visit residents in Care Homes, but it is essential to check with the Care Home manager first. While the Scottish Government has said that faith representatives may visit a Care Home, not all Care Homes are allowing this.

More information about safely caring for others can be found on our safeguarding advice page.