Religion News 6 May

Church of England bishops have agreed to lift restrictions which have prevented clergy from entering their churches during the coronavirus pandemic. It is suggesting three phases of change, beginning with allowing priests to stream services or pray privately in their buildings. The turnaround followed growing dissent at the  decision to keep clergy and congregations out.  Rev Marcus Walker, rector at Great St Bartholomew’s, London, who led a service which flouted the rules, in April, said: “Allowing people the sight of the places which gave them comfort and friendship, and in which they encountered God, can only help mitigate and heal.”

The Church of England’s ruling body, the General Synod, will not meet in York in July for its annual residential gathering because of the coronavirus. It will be replaced by an informal online gathering, giving synod members the chance to ask questions. Legislation is needed to ensure decisions of virtual meetings carry the same authority. … The Methodist Conference will meet virtually this year from June 25 – July 2 2020 in order to conduct essential business.

The Naz Legacy Foundation, which furthers the work of its founder Naz Bokhari in education and integration, is hosting a ‘Ramadan at home’ Itfar meal tonight (Weds 6t May), with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. The Mayor of London will also be a guest and the BBC’s Mishal Husain will host the event.

The Muslim Council of Britain has launched a consultation on keeping Muslim institutions safe after the lockdown. It is consulting ‘mosques, madrasas, medical experts and members of Muslim communities across the UK on whether, contingent on UK Government advice, they feel it is safe to partially re-open mosques and Islamic centres, and if they do, how to do so without putting anyone at risk of a second wave’.

Cathedrals in England are planning spectacular events to mark VE day on Friday 8th May.  Lincoln and Guildford Cathedrals will be lit up in red, white and blue. The Archbishop of York will speak at a virtual VE Day service from Ripon Cathedral and several others will have online services.  Durham’s organist will play We’ll Meet Again, from his home, for the national sing along at 9pm. And more than 20 cathedrals are inviting people to take part from home in a Big Picnic for Hope, to raise funds for those in need today.

Pope Francis has issued new guidelines to help the estimated 50 million people who have been displaced or are refugees. A document published on Tuesday invites Catholic parishes, nongovernmental organizations and dioceses to discover where displaced people are in their communities and find ways to cater for their spiritual and basic needs.

St Patrick’s church in Soho, London, is offering the homeless food provided by a five-star restaurant, alongside worship in a tent, including confession, all observing social distancing. Father Alexander Sherbrooke said the Holy Spirit is literally building a church on the streets in response to the crisis. The church serves up to 320 meals to around 220 people a day from its doorstep.

A relaxation of Sunday trading laws is being considered to allow for social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, after Conservative MPs urged a review. The Sunday Telegraph reported that the Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, said innovative and flexible ways should be considered to protect local economies.

And finally:

A 100 year old Bangladeshi man has raised almost £60,000 by being sponsored for walking around his communal garden in  London. Dabirul Islam Choudhury is walking 100 laps while self-isolating and fasting during Ramadan. He is raising money for 50 charities helping people affected by Covid19 in 50 countries including the UK and Bangladesh.

Global:

A federal judge in California has ruled that the governor had the right to ban church assemblies because of Covid19.  The Cross Culture Christian Center brought the action after the pastor refused to obey lockdown rules saying they had a first amendment right to hold a church service.

In America, a group of Roman Catholic bishops is urging political leaders to examine why a disproportionate number of African American communities are suffering from Covid19.  It wants a review of ‘generational and systemic structural conditions that make the new coronavirus especially deadly’. Several states and districts are reporting a discrepancy for African Americans and Latino populations.

The Guardian is reporting that paving stones made from Jewish headstones have been found in Wenceslas Square, in Prague’s tourist district. It says this confirms speculation that the former communist regime raided synagogues and graveyards for building materials.