Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the safe use of places of worship

Published: 19 Jun 2020

Guidance to help places of worship safely open for limited permitted activities, including individual prayer or contemplation.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the safe use of places of worship
Purpose of guidance

Purpose of this guidance

This guidance has been developed by the Scottish Government following consultation with a broad range of faith and belief leaders and representatives, and is based on scientific and health advice.

Faith communities should use it as an overarching framework and tailor this guidance as appropriate for the venue and practices being carried out. This should incorporate the principles and expectations in this guidance, expanding on them where appropriate.

The guidance is not intended to provide a checklist approach. Places of worship should use their judgement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and communities, based on relevant legislation and guidance and individual circumstances.

A ‘place of worship’ means all indoor and confined or enclosed outdoor spaces (including, for example, enclosed courtyards) used for religious ceremonies, collective prayer and worship or similar gatherings by faith organisations. It includes but is not limited to:

  • churches
  • mosques
  • gurdwaras
  • synagogues
  • temples
  • associated buildings run by a faith-based place of worship where regular worship takes place, such as prayer spaces/meeting halls

Those responsible for places of worship are those who oversee its management. This may be a faith leader, lay person or a management body or committee. 

They have discretion over when they consider it safe to open one or more places of worship for the permitted purposes, and these should remain closed if they are not yet able to safely adhere to the guidelines in this document.

The following activities are examples of what is not currently permitted (not an exhaustive list) within a place of worship. Further information will be given in due course on these activities:

  • pre-arranged or scheduled communal, congregational or corporate acts of worship led by a minister of religion or lay person, for example, Evensong, informal prayer meetings, Jummah, Mass or Kirtan
  • services and ceremonies other than funerals, for example marriage ceremonies, baptisms or coming of age ceremonies
  • study groups and out-of-school settings, including faith supplementary schools such as Sunday schools, madrassas or yeshivas
  • lifestyle and leisure/recreational groups such as craft groups or exercise groups
  • meetings including practices such as choir practice or bell ringing
  • tourism: buildings should remain closed for tourism purposes

​​​​​​​Many places of worship are also workplaces and should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers under health and safety law. Places of worship also have a duty of care to volunteers, to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.