Re-starting in-person worship?
Many Quaker communities are finding it hard to decide whether and when to re-start meeting in person. This new document offers some reflection and thoughts on whether this is the right time to go to our meeting places in-person again.
Advice sent to area meeting clerks on opening (5 January 2021)
There has been a number of changes to coronavirus restrictions. The following advice was sent to AM clerks at the beginning of January:
In England a national lockdown has been announced. Nevertheless, the government permits places of worship to open for public worship, subject to risk assessments and strict social distancing as before. The trustees of each area meeting carry legal responsibility for deciding whether it is possible to open premises safely within the guidance. However, many meetings may decide not to open premises for face-to-face worship in order not to encourage people to risk their own or others' health by leaving their home more than absolutely necessary. Individuals or households attending meetings for worship are not permitted to mingle with other households before, during or after the worship. Guidance on opening places of worship in England is available from the GOV.UK site.
In Scotland, a stay at home order is in place in Tier 4 (the whole of the mainland and the Isle of Skye). Places of worship are not permitted to open for in-person worship in any Tier 4 area to protect public health. Guidance is available from the Scottish government the GOV.SCOT website.
In Wales, all areas are currently at Alert Level 4. Places of worship are permitted to open for public worship, subject to risk assessments and strict social distancing as before. The trustees of each area meeting carry legal responsibility for deciding whether it is possible to open premises safely within the guidance. However, many meetings may decide not to open premises for face-to-face worship in order not to encourage people to risk their own or others' health by leaving their home more than absolutely necessary. Guidance on opening places of worship in Wales is available from the GOV.WALES website.
It seems probably that these restrictions will be in force for several weeks, although the review dates vary depending on the nation. In all three nations, separate guidance applies to weddings and funerals.
Britain Yearly Meeting staff are back at work. If you need advice you please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com. 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 may be able to gather in worship outdoors (even in pairs) depending on government guidance in your part of Britain.
Most 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
- blended worship stories and equipment - from 11 meetings - (PDF) updated 7 October
Guidance on reopening your meeting house or worship space
As well as our resources below, you often need to check the most up-to-date government guidance on worship and activities in meeting houses (please see above). You can find this on various government websites.
- main coronavirus page – then click on 'What you can and cannot do' for the tiers
- Safe use of places of worship
- Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities
- BYM's briefing on changes to the English guidance - 1 December (PDF)
- Guidance on re-opening places of worship
- Guidance on multi-purpose community centres
- COVID-19 Briefing paper from Churches Together in Wales
These should be read alongside government guidance in your part of Britain:
- 9 steps to reopening Quaker meeting houses and worship spaces safely - 22 July 2020 (Word)
- COVID-19 risk assessment - 22 July 2020 (Word)
- 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 on our funerals guidance page.
We encourage families to keep funeral attendance at a minimum: check local guidance for the number of people who can be present.
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?
We know that we will be living with restrictions for many months. Some people in our communities are likely to remain in a high degree of isolation for a long period.
It is especially important for meetings to consider how they will remain a community during this time. Our eldership and oversight page on this website contains advice for everyone involved in spiritual and pastoral care. There is also a suggested model for organising pastoral care at this time.
Advice for area meeting trustees
As well as resources on this page, see this advice for area meeting trustees on issues to consider around coronavirus (Word) - updated 22 July, alongside current government guidance.
Advice and guidance for Quaker meetings as employers
Visit the Quaker employers' pages, and download the Coronavirus advice and guidance for Quaker employers (PDF).
Friends House and Swarthmoor Hall
Both venues are currently closed. Please see the 'Contact us' page for more details. Plans are being made for how they might later reopen safely.
The work of Britain Yearly Meeting
Most BYM staff are working from home, supporting Quakers across Britain in their faith and witness.
However, with the continued closure of Friends House and Swarthmoor Hall, BYM can't generate trading income. Many staff are being furloughed under the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. BYM is taking this step to protect jobs and to make sure we are able to serve the needs of the Quaker community, both now and long into the future.
There is an article about the decision to furlough staff.
National Quaker events
BYM is following public health advice. We have cancelled all in-person events for the foreseeable future; some are being run online. We are also running additional events and activities for all ages. Please see our events page to find out more.
Committees meetings are taking place online, or postponed. Committee secretaries will keep committee members updated.
Image of meeting house: © 2019 Mike Pinches