Baptism and Covid-1929th June 2020
We are constantly updating this guidance page as new information comes in. The following brings together what we have learned.
Churches are having to come to terms with some new realities now that Covid has arrived. We have all learnt how to minimise the risk to ourselves and those around us over the past few months, and we’ll need those in the future. Meetings with people close together will probably be a rarity in the coming months. The cleaning of surfaces and our hands will become a norm and habit. So too will the wearing of masks and gloves.
Whilst meeting (whether to have a discussion or for worship) isn’t necessarily dangerous once one takes precautions, certain things will be. Sadly, one of the riskiest activities is singing because there is a lot of deep breathing. But what about baptisms?
Research on baptism and Covid is scarce but there some on Covid and waterbirths which has useful pointers for churches:
- Covid is not waterborne but is passed in airborne droplets and water vapour on a person’s breath.
- There have, as yet, been no documented cases of Covid being transmitted by touch. This does not mean that hand-washing, surface wiping, etc. should be stopped. It suggests the main infection route is by breathing in. The new variant is likely to underline the importance for taking all precautions..
- The above two points underline the critical importance of the wearing of masks.
- As water vapour is heavier than air, it tended to remain over the pool. This indicated the need for ventilation.
- Staff had to be masked.
- The duration of exposure is important. People being together for a short period are at a far lower risk than those being together either for long periods or repeatedly.
The water in the waterbirth was irrelevant to the risk of infection. It was just the setting where the birth was taking place. So too with baptism. We can use the finding to help shape a baptism service.
With baptisms, it is important to remember that Covid-19 is not a water-borne infection. And the scope for cleaning and cleanliness is even greater than normal.
What about Baptistry Equipment?
The pool itself will have been cleaned before being sent to you. We will also have increased the gap between hires so that the virus cannot persist from one hire to the next. We will enclose a spray disinfectant so that you can spray the assembled baptistry.
How Might Baptisms have to Adapt to be Covid-safe?
All talking should be done away from the pool. Social distancing and the wearing of masks would be needed. The speaker could take off their mask to use a microphone if everyone else was well away. This then just becomes a cleaning issue for whoever looks after the sound system!
In the baptistry itself, the minister (and possibly a helper) will need to be near the candidate to lower them into the water. As the main risk is from breathing in (or out) the virus, masks are needed and it would be safer if this part of the service in the water was silent. The necessary spoken parts of the baptism itself would be best said just before entering the pool. The minister could announce that they “will baptise you in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit” and then enter the pool (or invite the candidate to then enter the pool).
The study shows that the minister and helper should wear masks. A mask would not work for the candidate but they would close their mouth for immersion. A visor (in addition to the mask) for the minister and helper may also be preferred.
We are advised to change out of clothes after possible contact with Covid-19. After a baptism, people have always had to get into a new change of clothes anyway because they’re soaking wet.
The study showed that the ventilation was important. A through-draught might be possible or even a fan to blow the air away from the baptistry (and away from the congregation). Outdoor meetings and baptisms are safer still as the ventilation is sorted and any sunlight will break down the virus. With extra care for the pool liner, this can be managed.
The study shows that the risk comes not just from being exposed to Covid but from being exposed to it for long periods. The candidate would be in close proximity to the minister and helper for only a short period. But the minister and helper could be exposed to too many people if there were lots of candidates. For the time being, it would be wise to keep baptisms to smaller numbers. If candidates were all from the same households or ‘bubble’, it may be possible to baptise more people.
Water Treatment Between Baptisms
Based on the waterbirth study, this isn’t the source of risk with Covid as water is not a vector for infection. Oxygen or chlorine based treatments are available but it would be better to keep the number of different ‘bubbles’ to a minimum when baptising. Wiping touching hotspots (e.g. the edge of the pool where people get in) with spray sanitizer between baptisms would be good practice. We have heard from customers that churches in Scotland are advised either to change the water between baptisms or to treat the water. Simple water treatments are available at Baptistry Equipment and choose the ‘Water Treatments’ tab.
We are also making smaller baptistries for churches that wish to go down the route of refilling after each baptism. These pools will have insulated sides, so you may not even need a heater if you have a hot water supply.
We have heard of church groups using ‘bubbling’ to help with the running of the services. The ‘altar party’ formed one bubble. The musicians and choir formed another, ushers / wardens another, and so on. These bubbles kept a distance between themselves and other bubbles. This way, if one person tested positive, it reduced the risk to other members of the church.
Baptismal candidates would be another bubble. If it is unavoidable to have candidates from different households and bubbles, it would be best to keep them separate at all times whilst in the church building.
After the Baptism
Once the service is over and the pool is emptied, it can be sprayed with sanitiser again and left to dry. The hire period will be extended to give an extra day to give time for the pool to stand before the need to pack it and have it collected.
We are strongly encouraging churches to buy their own pool liner by offering discounts. This reduces the handling of that liner. Additionally, it is far less likely to leak as it stays with you and in your care! You would also make a saving in lower hire-costs.
Buying and keeping your own pool liner is safer in the Covid-age, you save on hire fees, and the liner is far less likely to get punctured.
Churches have spent 2000 years adapting and surviving and thriving. We can adapt the way we baptise. So, singing may be tricky but baptism, with careful arrangements, can continue.
- Wear masks.
- Keep social distance wherever possible.
- Ventilation, or have the baptism outside.
- Spray and wipe ‘touching hotspots’.
- Keep times where people are close together to a minimum.