Church meetings and small groups (such as Bible Study)

Kirk Sessions, financial boards and Presbyteries can meet in person where there is sufficient space to keep people distanced and safe. Hybrid meetings (in the sense of some people being present in-person and others attending online) are also possible.

It may be that, in those areas with a high COVID transmission rate, consideration is given to remaining or returning to an online meeting. Legally, participants in a meeting which is part of an "organisation's operation" can remove face coverings if a 1m distance between participants can be achieved. However, it is still safer to deploy as many mitigations as possible and face coverings being worn may be a sensible precaution to continue, dependant on local circumstances. Those organising meetings should also ensure that those who do not wish to remove face coverings are supported and, if it is thought appropriate, encourage all individuals to wear face coverings.

The protocols approved by the General Assembly of 2020 were extended for use by the General Assembly of 2021 and can be used until next May (2022) when the normal in-person process is not being followed. It is recommended that these protocols continue to be used where:

  • The Kirk Session consider that there are a number of members who, at this time in the pandemic, would not be willing to attend an in-person meeting due to virus-related health concerns and would, therefore, be excluded or
  • There would be insufficient room in the sanctuary or hall for all those who would wish to attend because the locally preferred level of physical distancing has reduced the seating capacity to that extent.

Enabling some persons to attend online may ie holding a hybrid meeting, may assist in these circumstances, if the technical arrangements for such a meeting can be made.

The protocols do not need to be used and an in-person congregational meeting can be held when all those who would wish to attend feel comfortable in doing so and the capacity of the building would allow them to be seated comfortably and safely. The decision to have an in-person meeting is for the Kirk Session to make having taken into consideration the issues raised in the bullet points above.

Small Groups such as Bible studies and prayer meetings can take place in people's homes but there should be no pressure placed on people to either host or attend a such a meeting. Space in the church building or a hall would offer the chance for social distancing and give access to facilities such as sanitising stations which might make the setting a more attractive for those who would not be comfortable attending a meeting in a house. Where such small groups meet in a church building face coverings must be worn except where there are medical exemptions. When groups meet in the homes of individuals it is strongly recommended that the group consider wearing face coverings for ongoing protection.

Where a congregation requires to hold a congregational meeting where there needs to be a vote, such as those held to elect a minister, consider a Basis of Adjustment or approve the sale of a building, specific guidance can be found on the Conducting Congregational Meetings page. There is no legal provision for a hybrid meeting for a congregation, i.e. where there is an in-person meeting and a virtual process happening simultaneously.