Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Guidance to help places of worship safely re-open for permitted purposes.

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

Other use of places of worship

Where a place of worship is used for activities other than individual or congregational worship, only activities currently permitted by the Regulations should take place and relevant guidance should be followed. This applies whether the activity is organised by the place of worship or by external groups. 

Examples of such guidance are set out below, but this is not an exhaustive list and those responsible for places of worship should check the Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and the guidance on activities that you can and cannot do (clicking on the level for your area).

Management of the place of worship

Managing a place of worship involves a range of activities that will be common to many businesses or organisations, such as committee meetings, recruitment of staff or physical maintenance of the building.  Those responsible for the place of worship should consider these activities in line with the general guidance and restrictions for the current protection level.  The general expectation is that everyone  should work from home if possible and meetings should be held remotely.  Places of worship which are run by a registered charity should refer to the OSCR guidance on charity meetings and governance.

Education, early years and childcare use

Places of worship that provide regulated early years and childcare services should follow the relevant guidance that sets out the measures and approaches that should be put in place to keep people safe. See:

YouthLink Scotland, in conjunction with the Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland, have developed a framework to support the resumption of youth work services.

Guidance for the community learning and development sectors, including youth work and adult learning is also available.

Unregulated indoor activity for under 18s, including activity organised by places of worship (such as out-of-school faith-based education that is separate to an act of worship), should follow guidance for unregulated organised activities for children.

Where a place of worship is providing activities for children they will need to determine which guidance is most relevant for the activity they are organising.

Indoor fitness/exercise groups

Sportscotland has issued an overview and  sport specific guidance  setting out what types of sport and activity can take place indoors at each protection level.  This depends on the age group and level of contact.  Those leading exercise classes should refer to Sportscotland guidance for coaches, leaders, personal trainers and instructors.

In addition, guidance has been published for the opening of indoor and outdoor sport and leisure facilities. Those providing organised sport and physical activity should make themselves aware of requirements around physical distancing, enhanced hygiene measures and test and protect.

Support groups

Support groups and one to one support should be delivered remotely where possible but may be delivered in-person if remote delivery is not possible. Support groups and one-to-one support include talking therapy, counselling, carer support, group therapy or any other support for mental illness, weight loss support, addiction support, victim support or bereavement support. If such services are to be delivered in person, the relevant guidance should be followed.

Recreational and social groups

Organised adult indoor activities, such as those run by recognised charitable, not-for-profit and political organisations and properly constituted clubs can take place in Levels 2-0. This includes, for example, committee meetings which are not part of the usual work of a place of worship where the default remains work from home. The organiser of the activity must take measures to ensure physical distancing is maintained during the activity. Our physical distancing guidance and any specific sectoral guidance must be taken into account.

This does not include ad hoc or informal social activities which should still follow the rules on gatherings appropriate to that setting (indoors or outdoors). One off social events such as birthday parties are still not permitted at these levels.

At Levels 3-4, people may only meet indoors in accordance with the relevant restrictions on indoor socialising for those protection levels.

It is therefore unlikely that recreational or social groups would be able to meet in places of worship at levels 3-4. 

Please see the guidance for details. 

Hospitality

Guidance for the hospitality sector should be followed, in relation to both hospitality offered after (or before) congregational worship and hospitality open to the public.  What is permitted will depend on the protection level which the place of worship is subject to. At all protection levels, worshippers must remain seated and be served in their place, and they must wear face-coverings (unless exempt) when not seated, for example arriving and departing or moving to toilets. 1 metre distancing must be maintained between people from different households, and the number of people at each table must not exceed the current restrictions for the area.  Particularly where hospitality is offered after worship, those responsible should ensure that people do not mix between tables, and that physical distancing is maintained when moving from the service to where the hospitality is provided.

Tourism and retail

All heritage attractions, shops and tourist accommodation can open at levels 3 and below, with appropriate precautions in place. Where this is relevant for a place of worship, the appropriate guidance should be followed:

Where a place of worship is also a heritage attraction, those responsible for the place of worship may need to consider how best to manage the combination of tourism and worship to minimise any risk of infection, taking into account issues such as the resources available for marshalling visitors and time for cleaning or re-arranging the space.

Live events and performing arts

You should check what you can and can’t do for details of what live events are permitted at each protection level, and take into account the latest guidance on events. If a place of worship is being used as a performance venue (concerts, etc) you should take into account the guidance for the performing arts and venues sector.


First published: 18 Sep 2020 Last updated: 29 Jul 2021 -