Places of worship are re-opening for congregational worship and prayer and religious life event ceremonies on 15 July and guidance has been published to help them prepare.
Key measures include:
• Restrictions on capacity so that a safe distance of at least 2 metres can be maintained between individuals from different household groups. No place of worship should admit more than 50 people at any one time, regardless of its size or usual capacity, with a limit of 20 people at weddings and funerals;
• The retention of worshippers’ contact details to share for Test and Protect if required;
• No communal prayer books, prayer mats or other shared items;
• Faith leaders and those responsible for places of worship must take all reasonable measures to adapt faith-specific rites and rituals to ensure the safety of those present;
• Singing, chanting and the playing of wind instruments should be avoided pending further scientific and medical advice on the risks of transmission from such activities.
Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP said:
“I know it has been very difficult for our faith communities to be unable to come together in their places of worship during such challenging times. This was, of course, necessary due to the pandemic and I would like to thank everyone for their understanding and patience.
“We have continued to engage closely with and listen to our faith communities throughout this period and we understand the important role of congregational worship in supporting spiritual wellbeing.
“The updated guidance reflects the evolving scientific and health advice and has been developed in consultation with leaders and representatives of Scotland’s faith and belief communities.”
Kenneth Gibson MSP added:
“I raised this in Parliament in recent weeks as I recognise how important the ability to worship is. Many constituents who regularly go to church have contacted me about this and I know they will be pleased to regain the opportunity to pray, celebrate and grieve together.
“Given that even pubs are now open, it makes perfects sense to also allow people to congregate in churches, mosques, temples, or any other places of worship.”
As part of Phase 3 of Scotland’s framework for easing restrictions on lockdown, from 15 July places of worship will be allowed to reopen for the following additional permitted purposes:
• Congregational services, including pre-arranged or scheduled acts of worship and communal prayer;
• Religious life event ceremonies, such as baptisms, christenings and coming-of-age ceremonies;
• Marriage ceremonies and, where celebrants in a faith community undertake them, civil partnerships, registrations (separate guidance is being developed).
Opening for any of the permitted purposes remains subject to physical distancing and hygiene safeguards.