Worship over the Christmas period

The Christmas week will present both opportunities and challenges for many congregations in 2021. With a desire to have more of a ‘normal' Christmas in church there will be a hope, if not an expectation to have as many services as possible. Nativity Services can take place; however, congregations should consider the mitigations in place, including ensuring there is space between those participating (perhaps by extending the width of the performance area), avoiding sharing costumes and wearing face coverings even if under 12 years wherever possible. With Christmas Eve on a Friday, Christmas Day on a Saturday and Boxing Day on a Sunday there will be logistical issues for congregations to address.

It is important to remember that between every service there must be an emphasis on ensuring the building is cleaned, sanitised and ready for use again. This will mean touch points need to be cleaned regularly (light switches, pews and seats, toilets, door handles etc) and the full church cleaned and sanitised as much as possible during this period. Cleaning and sanitising the church between all services should be the aim of all congregations given the higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant. This may prove most challenging between the Watchnight and Christmas Day Services. Some congregations may opt to hold one or other, some may choose to work with a neighbouring congregation and share the load, and others with more resources may have all the services with cleaning taking place between.

With more people traditionally attending church services over these days it is important that congregations keep as many mitigations as possible in place. Face coverings remain mandatory for anyone over the age of 12 without a medical exemption. As people will arrive from different communities when visiting relatives, and with a higher proportion of visitors than normal it is important that congregations are strongly urged to ensure that there is some form of distancing between people of different households (for the avoidance of doubt a household will also mean two households who are staying together for the Christmas period would form one household and be able to sit together at worship), and keeping a register for Test and Protect purposes in the event of a positive case.

Congregations are reminded of the strong recommendation to suspend hospitality at this stage in the pandemic. However, if a congregation determine it is absolutely necessary to provide hospitality (for example, tea and coffee after worship) there is a legal requirement to collect information on attendees for Test and Protect purposes and pay close attention to the guidance on hospitality, which includes a return to table service, managing queues to ensure distancing, and no food prepared off premises (except for food prepared in a commercial, environmental health-approved facility) should be served.

It is hoped that these measures will ensure congregations can celebrate the birth of the Christ child with joy, excitement and with due regard for the well-being of the community.