The reduction of restrictions across Britain does not mean that life returns to how it was before the pandemic. But it does mean we can enjoy more of what we would like to do as Quakers and have confidence that our Quaker meetings are safe spaces for those who attend that are most at risk from the virus.
Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over yet and we all need to work together to do everything we can to keep the virus under control – the legislation or guidance in place across Britain is there to help manage this. All our actions can have an impact on the virus, both positive and negative.
We ask that Quaker communities consider their actions carefully. When thinking about opening for Quaker and other activities, work with those managing Quaker premises to ensure this happens as safely as possible.
Places of worship can open for public worship, subject to risk assessments, in all parts of Britain.
Here is a summary of recent changes in each part of Britain:
England moved to Step 4 of the Roadmap to opening the country and economy on 19 July. The restrictions on gathering for worship and for any other activity have been removed. The Government is emphasising that the following behaviours are beneficial:
- Meeting in well-ventilated areas where possible, such as outdoors or indoors with windows open.
- Wearing a face covering where you come into contact with people you don't normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.
- Washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day.
- Covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze.
- Staying at home if unwell, to reduce the risk of passing illnesses on to friends, family, colleagues, and others in your community.
- Considering individual risks, such as clinical vulnerabilities and vaccination status.
The Government is encouraging venues to continue keeping temporary records of visitors to support NHS Test and Trace in England.
Although there are no legal limits on the number of people attending worship or another Quaker event, keeping safe social distancing may mean that you have to limit the numbers.
For full details see the
guidance for opening places of worship in England.
From Monday, 9 August Scotland moved beyond the Covid Protection Levels system.
- Most restrictions have been lifted and worship and other religious events can take place.
- You must wear a face-covering when in an indoor public place unless you are exempt for specific circumstances
You are encouraged to read the full guidance for opening places of worship in Scotland to check what is allowed.
The Scottish Government suggests that to stay safe you should:
- Get the vaccine when you are offered it.
- Wear a face covering, clean hands and surfaces regularly.
- Self isolate and take a PCR test if you have symptoms.
- Take regular tests if you don't have symptoms to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
- Meet outside if you can, and open windows when indoors.
- Keep your distance from people not in your group.
- Work from home, or do a mixture of home and office working if possible.
- Use the Protect Scotland and Check-in Scotland apps.
Wales moved to Alert Level 0 on Saturday, 7 August.
- There is no restriction to worship or the number of people who can attend indoors and outdoors.
- Adults and children over 12 must continue to wear face-coverings in most indoor public places.
The Welsh Government is encouraging the following key behaviours to help reduce the spread of coronavirus:
- Getting both vaccinations if you are able to – the vaccine offers significant protections not only for you but also for others, including the people you care about (even if you were unsure and have not yet taken up the offer, it is not too late).
- Self-isolating and getting a test when you have symptoms and avoiding others when ill.
- Keeping your distance from others wherever possible.
- Limiting the number of people you meet with, especially meeting different people in quick succession.
- Meeting outdoors or in well-ventilated places.
- Avoiding crowded places where possible.
- Maintaining good hygiene by washing hands, sneezing into tissues and keeping surfaces lots of people touch clean.
- Wearing a face-covering – particularly when in crowded spaces or when you are not able to maintain a distance, primarily in order to protect others.
Changes are taking place across Britain and the restrictions are being removed in all regions. We are now able to re-start activities that were previously not possible. We are moving from compulsory restrictions to voluntary restrictions. The emphasis from the Governments is that we need to think of how we can be supportive of others in the choices that we make to keep everyone safe. If your meeting is thinking of reducing or removing any of the restrictions that have been in place it may be a time to consider whether another mitigation might be helpful to enable that change.
We can look to our Quaker advices and queries when thinking about our options and actions. This might help us to know if our choices are for the benefit of others in our Quaker communities, or for our own benefit.
Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) is taking a measured approach for staff working at Friends House and Swarthmoor Hall and as venues for worship and lettings.
Britain Yearly Meeting staff are at work. If you need advice please contact: email@example.com.
Sharing and support
Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM) staff continue to support meetings through the pandemic. We welcome ideas on how we can all uphold Quaker communities. Please send ideas or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email may be shared with Woodbrooke staff.
Worship: alternatives to meeting for worship in person indoors
Quaker worship can happen anywhere at any time.
Some Quakers sit worshipfully, separately in their own homes at a prearranged time (not necessarily Sunday morning) in order to worship with each other at a distance.
You can gather in worship outdoors (even in pairs) depending on government guidance in your part of Britain.
Many Quaker meetings in Britain are holding worship online. You can find them by looking on their website or social media pages, or by contacting their clerk. Our search tool will help you find these details. Woodbrooke offers online worship (offsite link) most days of the week which anyone may join.
Woodbrooke's 'setting up your own online worship' page you will find:
- A guide to joining and holding online worship, including instructions for those less used to using computers. Some online meetings have telephone access too.
- Guides for children's meetings, youth work, and online and blended meetings for worship for business.
- A simple guide for those new to Quaker worship.
Blended online and in-person
We have developed:
- Advice about blended physical and online worship (PDF) - updated 22 July 2020
- Blended worship stories and equipment - from 11 meetings - (PDF) updated 13 August 2021
Guidance on reopening your meeting house or worship space
Is your meeting just starting to resume worship and other activities in person? There are things that you need to think about and put in place to make sure that people are safe. You should complete a risk assessment that could be in the form of a checklist. You should work alongside your area meeting trustees to agree on the steps to opening safely.
As well as our resources, you will need to check the most up-to-date government guidance on worship and activities in meeting houses. You can find this on various
- Coronavirus in England
- Find out the rules on what you can and cannot do in England
- Safe use of places of worship in England
- Coronavirus in Wales
- Wales Alert Level 0
- Guidance for safe use of multi-purpose community centres in Wales
- 25 solutions when you can't fit everyone in your COVID-19 secure worship space (Word)
- Risk assessment for children's meetings (Word)
- Guidance for children's meetings in England (Word)
- Guidance for children's meetings in Scotland (Word)
- Guidance for children's meetings in Wales (Word)
Holding physical children's meeting for worship
See the four documents relating to children's meetings above.
Funerals and weddings
Government regulations permit the holding of funerals in places of worship if certain strict measures can be put in place. Please read our funerals guidance to be clear on what this requires. Check for local COVID-19 restrictions before planning or attending a funeral.
Funerals may also be held at a crematorium, or at a graveside. All government guidance on indoor or outdoor attendance and social distancing must be followed. There are different rules on this in England, Scotland and Wales – follow the links above or on our funerals guidance page.
In all parts of Britain, the number of mourners able to gather in-person is dependent on the space available indoors or outdoors with social distancing measures in place. Check local guidance for details.
Memorial meetings and other post-funeral commemorative events
Memorial meetings and other post-funeral commemorative events, such as wakes, may fall under different local guidance to funerals. Check whether there is specific guidance for your part Britain that you need to follow.
More details, information and ideas are on our funerals page.
You must check guidance for your part of Britain to find out if a wedding can be held. Here are links to government websites:
What else can our Quaker community do?
Even though we are now emerging from the restrictions due to covid some people in our communities may need to remain in some level of isolation over the next few months.
Quaker Life local development team has made a series of videos on re-starting in person worship and other activities.
- Opening Up: Where we are; how do we open up and keep the good stuff? (offsite link)
- Opening Up: Opening the meeting place; the practicalities (offsite link)
- Opening Up: The way forward; journeying and worshipping together (offsite link)
There are also
resources and support for eldership and pastoral care.
Advice for area meeting trustees
We hope that AM trustees will continue to support and accompany local meetings in their areas over the coming weeks and months. The document, thoughts on re-starting in-person worship (PDF) is still available for communities that are just starting to gather in-person again. The docuemtn below is a helpful checklist for building managers and users to identify and mitigate risks.
Advice and guidance for Quaker meetings as employers
ACAS coronavirus website (offsite link) to find the latest advice and guidance.
Friends House and Swarthmoor Hall
Both venues are open in a limited way. Please see the
'Contact us' page for more details.
The work of Britain Yearly Meeting
Most BYM staff are still working from home, supporting Quakers across Britain in their faith and witness. Some staff are working part-time at Friends House and the Leeds office. They are not able to meet with anyone other than staff there. However, with the reduced opening of Friends House and Swarthmoor Hall, BYM can't generate a full trading income. A few staff are still furloughed under the government's
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. BYM is taking this step to protect jobs and to make sure we can serve the needs of the Quaker community, both now and long into the future.
National Quaker events
BYM is following public health advice. Many events and committees are being held online.
- See the Quaker events page for details of BYM events.
- Woodbrooke is running a range of learning opportunities online.
- Committees meetings are taking place online, or postponed. Committee secretaries will keep committee members updated.
- Some staff, such as the local development workers, started to do a limited amount of face-to-face work from June.
Image of meeting house: © 2019 Mike Pinches