Updated guidance for parishes on Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs division has updated its advice to parishes on practical steps to reduce the risk of infection from Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The guidance, written by Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s Adviser on health issues, drawing on the latest Government advice, is available on a dedicated web page, which now includes a FAQs section.

What churches should be doing

  1. Ensure everyone maintains good hygiene (we should be doing this already as part of normal good practice) at all gatherings, whether services or other occasions. This includes those who prepare or serve food, those handing out books etc or having other direct physical contact with numbers of people, as well as those administering the Eucharist (see below for more guidance)
  2. Provide hand gel at entrances and ensure there is a good supply of soap or hand gel in cloakrooms and kitchens and any other appropriate areas
    The best way of protecting us from spread is for everyone to use universal good hygiene, – this means everyone, all the time, which will effectively disrupt spread of the virus. So display the public information poster attached, which states:
    Catch it – sneeze into a tissue
    Bin it – bin the tissue
    Kill it – wash your hands with soap and water
    Do not touch your face unless you’ve washed your hands
    Follow the good hand washing and gel use technique from the NHS website. You can also download a poster version.
  3. Ask anyone with cold or flu symptoms to refrain from taking communion from the Chalice/Cup and receive the wafer/bread/host on the hand only.
  4. Intinction is NOT recommended, as it is a route for transmission from the individual through handling the wafer/bread/host, and tiny fragments could affect people with allergies to gluten etc.
  5. The placing of the wafer/host on the tongue by anyone administering Eucharist is NOT recommended as it is a potential source of transmission.
  6. Ensure good regular cleaning of surfaces people touch regularly, including such things as door handles, light switches etc.
  7. Ask those attending the Eucharist in particular to sanitise their hands as they come into church, using sanitized gel dispensers (make these available in porches or entrances)
  8. Ensure ministers of the Eucharist sanitise their hands before and after distributing communion. This can be done by washing hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds at least with soap and water) or using good quality hand gel.
  9. There is no need as things stand for the Chalice to be withdrawn. However anyone with coughs and colds would be advised to refrain from taking communion from the Chalice/Cup and receive the wafer/bread/host on the hand only.
  10. There is no need as things stand for the sign of peace to be suspended. However anyone with coughs and colds would be advised to refrain from shaking hands with others, and instead offer the peace verbally.
  11. When visiting parishioners at home, wash hands before and after giving the sacraments.
  12. No pastoral visits should be undertaken to people who are self-isolating until isolation ends. However do offer phone support.
  13. Visits to people in care homes or Hospitals should follow advice from the staff on infection control.

At present, there is no Government advice that suggests the use of the Common Cup should be suspended.

The situation will be kept under close review and updated advice will be made available if necessary.