The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly changing situation. We follow government advice closely, updating this page as things change, so please check back regularly.
UPDATED WEDNESDAY 14 APRIL 2021
England is in Step 2 of the roadmap out of lockdown.
- While there are ongoing constraints on social gatherings in homes, churches are permitted to gather for collective worship, and people are allowed to leave home to attend.
- We continue to host weekly Sunday services at The King's Centre, as well as streaming Sunday services for those unable to attend onsite. Onsite, household groups can only interact with others outside, under the Rule of Six (or 2 households).
- Our Communities can meet online, at The King's Centre, or outdoors under the Rule of Six (or 2 households).
PLEASE CONTINUE TO FOLLOW GOVERNMENT ADVICE.
In more detail
Our 'Covid working group' includes a Trustee and staff with responsibility for events, communication, risk management and safeguarding and meets every 2-3 weeks to consider OCC's response.
- Guidance and legal requirements from government including for places of worship, out-of-school-settings (children), early years providers and National Youth Agency
- Advice from others, including Evangelical Alliance and John Stevens (FIEC)
- Local Covid data: gov.uk (city/county), oxfordshire.gov.uk, hospitals
- Safeguarding requirements, where applicable
Government guidance for places of worship (updated 12 April 2021) permits public worship. This applies to The King's Centre (TKC), as a registered place of worship, and also to other venues we hire.
You might ask, why are churches allowed to organise 'public worship' activities while other areas of life face ongoing restriction? The impact of loneliness, anxiety and damage to mental health people are facing in this pandemic is significant, and government see that churches are good for people's wellbeing, and also are providers of charitable service to the wider community. For more on this, see our blog here.
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. We're grateful to those who are staying at home to protect themselves and others: shielding, self-isolating or working in frontline high risk roles. We're also aware that for many of you, perhaps living alone or facing significant challenges in your homes or feeling Zoom-weary and isolated, the ability to continue gathering safely on Sunday is a real lifeline.
The government has published its roadmap for the lifting of lockdown in England. We have considered the implications of this for our various church activities. Any changes we make will be subject to government guidelines (likely to be published no more than a week beforehand) and the availability of volunteers to enable us to operate the activity effectively and safely.
There are lots of other changes, but these are the most significant ones for church activity:
- From 29 March, rules allow people to meet outdoors under the ‘Rule of Six’ or 2 households – this gives Communities the opportunity to meet in smaller groups outdoors, including in private gardens and at The King's Centre.
- From 12 April, rules allow more indoor activities for children and young people.
- From 17 May, rules allow people to meet up more widely: up to 30 people outdoors, or ‘Rule of Six’ or two households indoors. This allows our Communities to start to meet more widely in person.
- From 21 June, Covid rules are expected to be largely lifted.
In all of these stages, places of worship are allowed to continue meeting, as they have been throughout lockdown 3, with appropriate Covid-secure measures. We anticipate that as the restrictions in England are gradually eased, we will be able to make gradual changes to how we gather as church in OCC.
Communities are vital for extended family, care and mutual support in this season.
Communities are encouraged to continue to meet by Zoom. Study/small group meetings are not permitted in homes or in places of worship. Please contact your Community leader for information.
People are now allowed to meet outdoors under the Rule of Six, or as 2 households. The church has several gazebos available for use by OCC Communities, to facilitate meetings, in compliance with these rules.
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.
Places of worship are permitted to continue to open for communal worship. You are allowed to leave home to attend a place of worship. We are required to assess the number of people who can safely gather onsite while safely social distancing, and to manage events in a Covid-secure way.
There are several aspects to our Covid-secure arrangements (this is a brief summary of fuller risk assessment):
- Anyone showing symptoms of Covid-19 or self-isolating should not attend onsite.
- No congregational singing is permitted.
- No food and drink will be served, but you are free to bring your own refreshments.
- Children and youth: Please see below.
- Social distancing will be maintained.
- Face coverings must be worn.
- The building is Covid-secure.
- We have a detailed risk assessment, including consideration of the safe capacity of each room.
- Visitor records are stored to assist with any track-and-trace.
These arrangements apply at The King's Centre, and we are taking a similar approach for other worship services, including Student Nights, and Leys meetings at BLAP. For more detail please visit our Sundays FAQs page.
Workplace rules permit 'necessary' pastoral visits by church staff or volunteers as they "volunteer to provide charitable services". Such workers are seen as key public service roles.
Adult support groups, including for new parents and vulnerable young people (over 18) remain allowed.
Youth and children
From 12 April, children and youth activities (for under 18s) can operate indoors as well as outdoors online.
- 0-5s: Our Sunday creche is now open again.
- YR-Y6: We ask that children have spent at least one term in school, as they are more able to cooperate with social distancing; face coverings are not required for under-11s.
- Y7-Y13: Face coverings are required at all times.
For now, we are asking for pre-booking for 0-11s, to help us manage volunteer capacity as we emerge from lockdown. Look out for details in the weekly bulletin.
From 12 April, we are encouraging employed staff and volunteers in people-facing roles to take advantage of the government scheme which strongly encourages twice-weekly onsite or home testing for people without Covid symptoms. As we restart various activities, testing will help us keep the activity staff and the people they are serving safe.
Our pastoral and administrative staff work flexibly, mostly from home, and from The King's Centre where necessary.
Leadership and team meetings (staff and volunteers) are online, except where our Covid working group agrees with the team leader they are reasonably necessary. Contact your team leader for details.
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. Jesus reveals himself as 'the truth' (John 14:6), so it is important for Christians to hold the truth in high regard.
If you want to gain understanding on those issues, we would encourage you to engage with these resources.
- Short summary from Dr Rick Thomas (former Salt & Light 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, for Affinity)
Questions or concerns?
If you have any questions about our Covid-secure arrangements, or wish to raise concerns, please email the church office.