Meetings and Organised Groups for Adults
It has been agreed that Church Meetings such as Presbytery, Kirk Session and Congregational Board are permitted to meet ‘in person’ in areas covered by COVID protection levels 0-2.
It is important to remember that permission to meet is not an instruction to meet and congregations and Presbyteries may choose to have a blended approach to meetings with some ‘in person’ and some online. The numbers attending the meeting must not exceed the safe physically distanced based calculation for the space in which the meeting is held. Test and Protect must be undertaken, and the need to wear face coverings remains. Attention should be given to how people are heard when they speak as, with people being distanced from one another there may be a need for amplification.
Where the Kirk Session or Presbytery has a membership greater than the number of people able to meet in the space and an approach is taken where some meet in person and some online then the meeting must follow the principles of Act 2, 2018.
It is unlikely that congregational meetings for such matters as Stated Annual Meetings, Sale of buildings and Vacancy and Adjustment processes will be able to take place ‘in person’ for some time due to the inability to allow every member who may reasonably seek to attend so to do. For this reason, congregational meetings should still make use of the Protocols approved by the General Assembly.
Indoor Adult Groups
Organised adult activities are allowed indoors in areas under COVID protection levels 0-2, provided appropriate safety measures are followed. Each group must have a COVID-19 safety officer in place (which for congregational groups under the jurisdiction the Kirk Session may be the congregational Health and Safety Co-ordinator). The numbers attending the group must not exceed the safe physically distanced-based calculation for the type of activity.
Only groups that have regular and organised activities run by the congregation, recognised charitable, not-for-profit and political organisations, properly constituted clubs, or businesses on behalf of or for the public may take place. Ad hoc or informal social activities should still follow the rules on gatherings appropriate to that setting (indoors or outdoors). One-off social events such as birthday parties, or other activities, are still not permitted to take place.
At Levels 3-4, people may only meet indoors in accordance with the relevant restrictions on indoor socialising for those protection levels. It is therefore unlikely that any organised activities for adults (with the exception of sport and support groups), recreational or social groups would be able to meet in places of worship at levels 3-4.
In order to assist groups to return to activity safely, the Scottish Government state that every group must appoint a COVID-19 safety officer. For congregational organisations under the jurisdiction of the Kirk Session this may be the congregational Health and Safety Officer. The purpose of this role is to help the group oversee and implement public health and safety measures across its activities, as well as helping the group to operate in a safe manner that adheres to Scottish Government and relevant Church of Scotland guidelines.
The COVID Officer will predominantly work in the background, to coordinate a group's return to hosting activities and will be the main point of contact for the group on all things related to COVID-19. The COVID Officer shall not bear sole responsibility for ensuring all hygiene and public health advice is followed – this responsibility will be shared by all who attend the activity.
The role of the COVID Safety Officer may include:
- Ensuring that the group has appropriate processes in place to document risk assessments and that all appropriate mitigations are put in place before any activity is undertaken
- Ensuring that the group has appropriate processes in place to allow the group to take an accurate record of all attendees at each session in line with Scottish Government Test & Protect guidance (for congregational organisations and groups a record should be kept in line with the Church of Scotland Test and Protect procedure similar to that in place for worship)
- Keeping up to date with ongoing Scottish Government and Church of Scotland advice and guidance relating to COVID-19
- Ensuring there is awareness of the groups and congregations COVID-19 protocols and encouraging members and participants to take individual responsibility
The Guild is an important part in the life of many congregations. The congregation should remember that the Guild are a part of the life of the congregation and that the Kirk Session have responsibility to ensure that the Guild are supported in returning to activities.
Numbers for Guild groups should not exceed the PDBC for the space in which they are meeting. If tea and coffee is being served as part of the meeting this should only be with table service (or served to the person sitting in their seat) and groups must follow the guidance in the hospitality section below.
It has been agreed with the Guild National Office that the COVID Support Officer for local Guild groups should be the Health & Safety Co-ordinator of the congregation or their deputy/ appointee. This ensures that all Guild groups understand the Church of Scotland procedures and guidelines and are supported in their implementation.
The risk assessment for the Guild returning should be part of the congregational risk assessment and should be completed by the Kirk Session in conjunction with the Guild Office Bearers.
When Guild activities resume the group meeting will fall under the responsibility of the Kirk Session for Test and Protect purposes. This means that contact details should be taken in the same manner that details are collected for worship and stored securely by the congregational contact. After the Guild meeting is finished arrangements should be made to pass the attendance list to the appropriate congregational representative.
If there is a positive case of COVID within the Guild NHS Test and Protect should be told to contact the Church of Scotland Law Department who will then liaise with the congregational contact. At no point should the Guild office bearers inform members of a positive case as this is the responsibly of NHS Test and Protect. Should a Guild office bearer be made aware of a positive case within its membership they should immediately contact the congregational Health and Safety Co-ordinator.