UPDATED THURSDAY 2 DECEMBER 2021
England is in Step 4 of the COVID-19 roadmap. As such, the pandemic is not over, and we need to move cautiously.
- Legal social restrictions were removed on 19 July, but as an organisation hosting events for the public we are required to manage events in a COVID-secure way.
- Face coverings are still expected to be worn in indoor public venues. In light of the new Omicron variant, we now require people to wear face coverings inside our venues, for people age 11 or older, unless they are exempt.
- We hold weekly Sunday services onsite as well as streaming for those unable to be onsite. We have resumed congregational singing, but require face coverings for those who wish to sing. We are maintaining some social distancing measures.
- Communities can meet in homes, and we have issued detailed advice to group leaders on how to meet safely.
PLEASE CONTINUE TO FOLLOW GOVERNMENT ADVICE.
In more detail
Our 'COVID working group' meets periodically to consider our response. It includes a Trustee and staff with responsibility for events, communication, risk management and safeguarding, from OCC and Lifehouse churches. It considers:
- Guidance and legal requirements including for places of worship, out-of-school-settings (children) and National Youth Agency
- Other advice, including Evangelical Alliance and John Stevens (both representing evangelical churches with government) and a Public Health Consultant in our church
- Local COVID-19 data: gov.uk (city/county), oxfordshire.gov.uk, hospitals
- Safeguarding requirements, where applicable
We have followed government advice closely. With the removal of many COVID-19 guidelines and laws, much more is being left to our judgement as an organisation, so please do pray for wisdom and grace as we navigate this moment together.
There are 3 key principles guiding our approach:
- Love your neighbour. As Steve Jones said, there are a whole range of feelings around! Some are eager to get back to life as usual. Some are extremely nervous. Some have become comfortable watching church from home. Let's love and show kindness to each other, as we listen to one another, and show care and concern for the pressures that others are feeling. Let's love our neighbour, and look not only to our own interests!
- Church is good for people. The impact of loneliness, anxiety and damage to mental health people face in this pandemic is significant, and the government has seen that churches are good for people's wellbeing, as well as providers of charitable service to the wider community. For more on this, see our blog here.
- Everyone is facing different challenges. Of course, even if we decide to run an activity, every person is in a different situation and should consider the needs of their household when deciding how to participate.
More specifically, in judging risk and our response, we are seeking to consider:
- Who: number of people? a known group or public event? are they at risk? do they present a risk to others? what concerns do they have?
- What: what are we doing together? singing? physical activities in confined space?
- Where: what size is the room, compared the number of people expected? how well ventilated?
- Moment: what us going on with COVID-19 in the nation, our region or city? what government guidlelines are in place?
Communities are vital for extended family, care and mutual support in this season. Communities can now meet indoors and outdoors, without legal limits. We have issued advice to leaders of our Communities, including a simple risk assessment, consideration of ventilation and appropriate occupancy levels, and consulting group members.
Communities are also involved in supporting neighbours and community initiatives. We regularly update our advice on that and also refer to government guidelines on safely helping other people.
For some months now, places of worship have been permitted to continue to open for communal worship. (More here: Our approach)
Despite the new social freedoms, as an organisation hosting events for the public we are required to assess the number of people who can safely gather in venues while safely social distancing, and to manage events in a COVID-secure way.
- Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 or has been told to/is required to self-isolating should not attend onsite.
- We require face coverings to be worn on entering the building, unless they are exempt, and to sanitise/wash hands.
- We have resumed congregational singing, but require face coverings for those who wish to sing, because of the aerosol risks in an indoor space, and because we do not know the vaccine status of people in the room. Those on stage who remove face coverings are asked to regularly COVID-test, even if vaccinated.
- We maintain some social distancing measures, including asking people to leave a chair between households.
- We have recommenced pre-service refreshments, in a Covid-secure way.
- We have a detailed risk assessment, including consideration of the safe capacity of each room and suitable ventilation.
- Visitor records are requested to assist with track-and-trace.
These arrangements apply at The King's Centre, and we are taking a similar approach for worship services in hired venues, including Student Nights at Wig and Pen, Leys at BLAP, and Lifehouse at Kingsmere. For more detail please visit our Sundays FAQs page.
Weddings and funerals
There are no government restrictions for weddings and funerals, other than those resulting from our own risk assessments.
Youth and children
Children and youth activities (for under-18s) can operate indoors as well as outdoors online, with no limits on group/bubble sizes.
Guidelines (2/12/21) now require anyone aged 11 or older to wear a face covering indoors, at all times.
Following advice from a public health consultant, we are requesting that those working with children and young people (many of whom remain unvaccinated) record their vaccine status on Churchsuite, in order to help us assess and manage risk, and for use in the event of any contact from Track and Trace. See also below on asymptomatic testing.
We are asking all adults to follow government advice strongly encouraging twice-weekly onsite or home testing for people without COVID-19 symptoms (asymptomatic testing).
We are asking employees and volunteers in people-facing roles or where they are likely to remove face-coverings, to self-test, as this will help keep both the team and the people they are serving safe, and create confidence for us to restart activities. We do not need to see your test results, but obviously if you test positive please self-isolate until you have received a negative PCR test.
If you are unable or unwilling to test, or to receive the vaccine, please inform the leader of the activity, as it will affect our risk assessment, and we may need to consider a more suitable role for you, for the time being.
Teams and office (workplace)
As a charity, workplace rules apply to Oxfordshire Community Churches (including Oxford Community Church, Lifehouse Community Church, Thrive Leys and Edge Housing).
Our staff continue to work flexibly, from home and from The King's Centre where agreed with their line manager. We are undertaking individual assessment of risk, including a person's role and vaccine status.
Leadership and team meetings (staff and volunteers) are meeting in person, as well as online.
We are encouraged by the progress of the UK vaccination programme, and also are aware of some concerns about safety and ethics as well as much disinformation being spread through social media. For more understanding of the various issues, try reading:
- Short summary from Dr Rick Thomas (Pastor and medical doctor, now working for Christian Medical Fellowship as policy researcher) - attached below
- Video interview with Dr Rick Thomas (as above) and Mike Beaumont (author and theologian)
- Blog exploring the different concerns, including the pro-life issues (John Stevens, Affinity)
Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or wish to raise concerns about our COVID-19 arrangements, please email the church office.