New lockdown rules: what does the rule of 6 mean for churches?

11 September 2020

The Christian Legal Centre’s Rob Smith gives an update on what the new laws mean for churches meeting for Sunday services.

This week, in response to an apparent uplift in the number of cases of Coronavirus, the Government announced changes to the rules affecting public gatherings. Fortunately, their impact on places of worship are very minor and have actually improved the situation in other respects.

We have yet to see the guidance for Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, but from Monday (14 September 2020), the number of people legally allowed to meet socially, both indoors and outdoors, will reduce from 30 to six.

Fortunately places of worship are not affected by this change and can remain open for communal worship. Accordingly, congregations are free to meet and any restriction on the number of worshippers will be determined by the number that can be accommodated whilst still observing social distancing. The requirement for wearing face coverings remains in place for indoor services but is inapplicable if the church holds its service outdoors.

The only apparent change for places of worship from 14 September is that: “the new limit for any group attending communal prayer together in a place of worship will be six people. Social distancing must be maintained between members of different households at all times.” I am wondering if the Government noticed that by adding a couple of hymns and a talk from the front to make the gathering an act of communal worship renders this restriction a little pointless, but there you have it.

On the plus side, groups of up to six from different households are now able to meet indoors, meaning small house groups can start to meet again. This gathering of six is a maximum, so if the house contains husband, wife and two children, then only two others can join the gathering, but it is a step in the right direction.

You can read Rob’s previous article giving practical steps to churches restarting in-person services.

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