We can't yet return to life as it was before the pandemic. Measures are being reintroduced across Britain to slow the spread of the virus allowing us to continue enjoying more of what we like to do as Quakers. We should be confident that our Quaker meetings are safe spaces for those who attend that are most at risk from the virus.
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 closely with those managing Quaker premises to ensure this happens as safely as possible.
Places of worship can continue to open for public worship in all parts of Britain, subject to risk assessments. If there are any changes to government guidance during the Winter Festive Break that affect the usual activities of Quaker places of worship we will update this page with the details of them.
Here is a summary of recent changes in each part of Britain:
The Covid 19 winter Plan B in England was introduced on Friday, 10 December 2021. See below for the key points:
- Gathering in person for worship and other religious events can still take place.
- Face-coverings are compulsory in most public indoor venues, other than hospitality. This includes attending Meeting for Worship and other community activities.
- The Government is encouraging venues to continue keeping temporary records of visitors to support NHS Test and Trace in England.
For full details read the guidance on the safe use of places of worship in England. Other changes may apply to Quaker activities or to lettings in Quaker settings. Everyone is being asked to be aware of the following updates.
- NHS Covid Pass to be mandatory in specific settings, using a negative test or full vaccination via the NHS Covid Pass.
- Vaccines and testing remain our best lines of defence.
- People asked to work from home if they can.
Other mitigations to help slow the spread of the virus have not been changed. BYM is encouraging those managing worship or other Quaker events, such as weddings or funerals, to keep everyone safe by limiting numbers, maintaining social distancing, wearing masks including when giving ministry wherever possible and other mitigations.
New guidance will be introduced in Scotland from 26 December. The new rules do not affect worship but are to remind people that existing mitigations are still in place.
- 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.
- If you are serving refreshments you need to follow the guidance for tourism and hospitality.
Please read the full guidance for opening places of worship in Scotland.
To help protect yourself and others this winter the Scottish Government suggests you:
- Get the vaccine or the vaccine booster.
- Limit the amount of social contact you have with other households – gather in groups of no more than 3 households.
- Avoid crowded places – shop at quieter times and follow safety measures in shops and other places.
- If you don't have symptoms take regular lateral flow tests - especially before mixing with other people – get LFD tests.
- If you have symptoms – self isolate and book a PCR test.
- Wear a face covering where required.
- Work from home if you can.
- Take an LFD test each time before you visit someone in a hospital or care home.
- Wash your hands regularly, and cover your nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing.
- Open windows when meeting indoors.
- Use the apps: COVID status, Protect Scotland and Check-in Scotland.
From 26 December guidance in Wales will change. The new restrictions will draw on elements from Alert Level 2. Changes that will affect Quaker activities are as follows.
- Social distancing of 2 metres between households will be reintroduced in worship settings.
- Weddings, funerals and other religious events can take place but the number of people attending will be limited by the capacity of the venue with social distancing in place.
- Adults and children over 12 must continue to wear face-coverings in indoor public places, with the exception of some hospitality settings.
The Welsh Government is encouraging the following key behaviours over the Christmas period and beyond to help reduce the spread of coronavirus:
- Get vaccinated – and if you have had your booster appointment, please make this your priority.
- If you are going out, going Christmas shopping or visiting people – flow before you go. Take a lateral flow test. If it's positive – do not go out.
- Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you are meeting indoors make sure it is well ventilated.
- Space out any socialising –please leave at least a day between events.
- Do not forget about social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing your hands.
Some compulsory restrictions are being reintroduced and we are encouraged to continue with caution and care for our communities. 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.
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 government websites.
- 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 the 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 document 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