Prayer and worship in churches, weddings and funerals
Updated 26 March 2020
Advice for churches regarding opening for prayer and worship, as well as conducting weddings and funerals.
We are very conscious of the need to provide spiritual resources in this time, both nationally and locally. While physical services are cancelled, a number of churches are moving to offer online worship.
We will also be aiming to provide guidance and ideas for how congregations can connect with each other and offer spiritual practices for members to follow in their own time. At present, our Weekly Worship offers readings and spiritual thoughts appropriate for each week. We also have information available on how to safely use Zoom to connect with your local congregation and community.
The Church is aware that closing down worship services will impact on congregational income, and we want to encourage people to continue contributing financially as far as possible, and to encourage the increased use of standing orders as an expression of ongoing stewardship. For more information, please visit our page on maintaining congregational income.
Churches no longer open for prayer
Church buildings can no longer be kept open as a place for people to come and pray following stringent new restrictions put in place by the Scottish and UK Governments on Monday 23 March. The measures reflect the need to slow down the spread of the virus, reduce the peak impact of it and prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. We encourage people to use alternative means to stay in touch as a church community whilst staying at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Instead, use telephone, social media or email contact. We have information available on how to safely use social media and telephone support.
Sensitive conversations will need to take place with families and mourners ahead of funeral ceremonies. No funeral service can take place in the church building. These have been closed for all services.
Our advice is to arrange funerals over the phone wherever possible, to minimise contact. This is not as easy as meeting the chief mourners face-to-face, but these are exceptional times.
In arranging a funeral during this pandemic, a minister or other worship leader must comply with government instructions and health advice. These will inevitably mean restrictions on the numbers of those who can attend the service, so these conversations will need to be sensitively handled but the law must be followed.
The attendance at a funeral service, wherever it is held, must be limited to immediate close family, e.g. parents, or the spouse and the couple’s adult children (but not their partners) and perhaps the deceased’s siblings (but not their partners) and not grandchildren or cousins or other relatives or close friends or colleagues. Even with the small number, there is a need to respect social distancing guidelines for those who are not of the same household – no closer than two metres.
Make your own travel arrangements to the graveside or crematorium – do not travel in the car with the bereaved family or the undertaker. After the service, as difficult as it is, you must not shake hands or offer a hug.
Latest government instructions restricting social gatherings mean it is unlikely families will be able to socialise following a funeral, and hotels and restaurants are now closed to sit-down business. Our advice to the person who has taken the funeral service is not to socialise at a purvey or wake, and to return home immediately.
Tributes can then be paid in other ways for larger numbers of people to engage with – either online, with a recorded tribute, or in a church newsletter – or given in a memorial service later in the year.
Weddings and baptisms
Latest advice from the UK and Scottish Governments will prevent weddings and baptisms from taking place for the foreseeable future to reduce the spread of coronavirus through social gatherings. All public gatherings of more than two people are now restricted. Those who had an event planned can contact their own minister directly to discuss their individual circumstances with the understanding that a postponement is now necessary until a later date when we can return to normal circumstances.