Churches wary, as task force meets to plan reopening

May 15, 2020 by

by Pat Ashworth, Church Times:

Ministers hint that private prayer might be possible soon.

THERE was a guarded response this week to the news that, under government guidelines for Step Three of the phased return to normal life, churches could open for worship as early as 4 July.


The document that followed the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday linked places of worship with pubs, hairdressers, hospitality providers, and leisure facilities as free to open from that date, assuming that infection rates have not risen again and provided that they can meet the Covid-19 secure guidelines.

The document concedes: “Some venues which are, by design, crowded . . . may still not be able to reopen safely at this point.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, at the Downing Street briefing, went further. “I’ve been speaking to faith leaders, and will convene later this week a task force to establish when and how places of worship can open safely, for some of the practices where social distancing can take place, such as private prayer, potentially private prayer being able to be carried out earlier than July 4th.”

No change has been announced to the current instructions for funerals, which allow a few family members and friends to attend services in crematoria or burials. There was, though, a hint that weddings might be allowed in three weeks’ time. A web page of FAQs, last updated on Monday, states: “We understand the frustration couples planning a wedding must be feeling, so we have set out our intention to enable small wedding ceremonies from 1 June. As with all coronavirus restrictions on places of worship, venues and social distancing, we will look to ease them as soon as it is safe to do so. We will work closely with faith leaders and local government over the coming weeks to go through the practicalities.”

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Read also: Cathedrals face sharp drop in income by Paul Wilkinson, Church Times


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