Notice issued by Chapter on Thursday 22 July 2021

The arrangements for public worship in step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown

The House of Bishops’ COVID-19 Recovery Group issued new guidance regarding public worship and the use of church buildings on Friday 16 July. Its guidance reflects the Government’s decision to remove most coronavirus legislation on 19 July, and in its place to promote guidance that emphasizes the personal and corporate responsibilities of individuals and organisations. Thus, each church must now decide how best to interpret the House of Bishops’ guidance, having considered the local context and conditions, and bearing in mind that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly and may be followed by further variants in the coming months.

In reaching the Chapter’s decisions (set out below), we had five objectives in mind:

  1. to mitigate, as far as possible, the risks to health identified in the Recovery Group’s guidance:
  2. to reassure those congregants who may be vulnerable and/or uncomfortable with the idea of close proximity, that it is safe for them to worship with us;
  3. to prevent any protocol from creating unnecessary divisions within the congregation, as we are ‘all in this together’;
  4. to enable the choir and congregation to sing hymns with minimum risk, and to make provision for those congregants who do not wish to sing;
  5. to make no changes now that would be irreversible, should a new COVID-19 variant emerge in the late summer or the autumn, which forces the Government to re-introduce restrictions on our behaviour, possibly including a mandatory return to social distancing measures.


Test & Trace - We continue to invite everyone who attends public worship to register upon arrival.

Sanitizer - We continue to provide and encourage the use of hand sanitizer at entry/exit points and other key places within the cathedral.

Social distancing - Although the law no longer requires us to maintain social distancing, we are retaining it at 1m+, so that we can reintroduce elements of worship that we have missed, especially hymn singing (see the separate paragraph below). Thus, we will continue to use individual chairs, and the pews will remain in storage.

Capacity - will remain for the time being at 30 congregants in the Lady Chapel and 200 congregants in the nave/transepts/nave aisles.

Processions - will not be routed through the body of the nave, because to do so would require a reduction in the cathedral’s seating capacity for worship. Entry/exit for the altar party will continue to be by way of the pulpit crossing.

Face masks - We respectfully ask everyone to wear a face mask whenever they are walking about in the cathedral before/during/after worship. Face masks may be removed, whenever a congregant is sitting in (or standing at) their seat. This protocol will enable congregants to breathe more easily during the service and to sing hymns without the risk of fainting from lack of oxygen.

Choirs - There are no longer any limits on the number of singers who are performing in a professional or amateur choir.

Hymns - The guidance permits congregational singing, but identifies the risk of generating infected particles when singing: this is a risk that has to be mitigated, which is one of the reasons why the Chapter is retaining the use of socially distanced chairs for the congregation, rather than pews.

Quiet zone - In order to accommodate clinically vulnerable congregants, as well as those who do not wish to sing or to be near people who are singing, several rows of chairs at the west end of the nave will be reserved as a quiet zone. 

Books - The texts of hymns will be printed on the weekly pew sheet and the daily service sheet, while chairs (rather than pews) are in use. Any service cards or books that have been used during a service will be subject to the current quarantine protocol.



  1. Altar servers: we will continue as at present with a crucifer, but with the addition of a thurifer on feast days;
  2. The President: will continue to preside from the chair on the east side of the nave altar;
  3. The Peace: we will continue to discourage all physical contact when exchanging the Peace;
  4. Offertory: there will be no procession of gifts; the President will continue to prepare the altar without assistance from the deacon or altar party;
  5. Consecration: elements will remain covered, as at present;
  6. Communion: Administrants will wear masks during the distribution of Holy Communion, which will continue to be administered silently in one kind only to congregants at their seats – only the president will receive the chalice;
  7. Dispersal: Stewards will continue to manage the dispersal of the congregation at the end of the service, in order to maintain social-distancing;
  8. Collection: A retiring collection will be taken in the retro-quire;
  9. Refreshments: It is too soon to reintroduce coffee/tea after the service.


As the Recovery Group has already indicated that the Government’s guidance is likely to evolve in the weeks and months ahead, we should all understand that the Chapter’s decisions about current arrangements will be subject to change, depending upon the behaviour of the virus.