Legal restrictions brought in during the pandemic have come to an end across England on Monday 19th July 2021; however, both the Church of England and HM Government have issued advice to churches on how to manage this next step.
After considering the guidance received, the Parish of All Saints’ Houghton Regis has implemented (or retained) the following measures.
Face coverings and social distancing
Although legal obligations to wear face coverings have been lifted, people will be “expected” to wear them indoors (unless medically exempt). This policy is in line with both the Government’s and the Church of England’s advice.
Seating arrangements implemented during the lockdowns at both All Saints’ and St Thomas’ to facilitate social distancing remain unchanged. However, the requirements about social bubbles and households seating together are no longer in force.
At All Saints’ the maximum number of people allowed in the building remains capped at 50, excluding individuals leading worship (or performing key roles during pastoral offices).
Hand gel stations are still available in both churches. Please, sanitise your hands on entering and exiting the buildings.
Test and Trace and Checking-In
The QR codes used at All Saints’ and St Thomas’ to check-in using the NHS app remain in place. Please make use of these during your visits.
With fewer restrictions in place ventilation of our buildings during worship becomes all the more important. Main doors and certain windows will be open during services, save in extreme circumstances.
We are finally allowed to sing congregationally again! This is a great joy, but it should be approached with caution, given the Government’ Suggested Principles.
Evidence shows that aerosol particles are emitted by singers in greater quantities than if they were speaking. Therefore, masks should be worn by anyone in the congregation intending to sing (with an exception we can make for choir members), while social distancing will enable us to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus.
Mass and Distribution of Holy Communion
We are now allowed by Church of England authorities to share the Precious Blood of Christ at Mass using the “common cup”. However, this will not be implemented given the high number of COVID-19 cases across the country. Holy Communion will continue to be distributed in one kind only.
A few individuals have voiced their desire to approach the altar rail to receive the Holy Communion (as it is good and proper), but this would require a two-way flow of people in the chancel which is not practical at present. The Sacrament will continue be distributed to the faithful in the nave, and to choir members and servers from their places.
Sign of Peace
Social contact is now permitted. However, the liturgical exchange of peace which takes place at Mass will remain in the form of a hand wave to safeguard those who need to (or prefer to) keep at a safe distance from others.
Refreshments after Mass
Refreshments after services can be served again.
Ringing with a full number of ringers can resume, as can ringing practice. Ringers are expected to wear face masks whilst indoors.
Pastoral Offices (Baptism, Weddings, Funerals)
The social distancing and face covering regulations listed above will apply. At All Saints’ the maximum number of people allowed in the building remains capped at 50, excluding individuals leading worship (or performing key roles during pastoral offices).
In the case of Baptisms, only candidates from the same family, social group, or households will be baptised at the same service.
Updated 24 July 2021
Created 18 March 2020