Churches and other places of worship in Britain will not re-open after the lockdown until at least the beginning of July, according to the government’s roadmap published on Monday. This is part of ‘Step Three’, and will allow hairdressers, beauty salons, hospitality centres, leisure facilities such as cinemas and places of worship to open, subject to scientific advice. The government warns that venues which are crowded and where social distancing is difficult may still not be able to be opened at this time. In addition, the government intends to allow small wedding ceremonies from 1 June.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, leading the C of E’s response to the crisis, said in a statement
“We note from the Government’s Covid-19 Recovery Strategy that churches could be open from July as part of the conditional and phased plan to begin lifting the lockdown. We look forward to the time when we are able to gather again in our church buildings. We are examining what steps we will need to take to do so safely and are actively planning ahead in preparation. We strongly support the Government’s approach of continuing to suppress the transmission of the virus and accordingly, we recognise that at this time public worship cannot return in the interests of public health and safety.”
Rev Dr Sam Wells, Vicar St Martin in the Fields
“Churches are showing solidarity with our whole society in doing whatever it takes to allay the threat of the virus. Every challenge yields opportunities. Right now we’re discovering how to see one another without being in each other’s presence, talk together without being able to touch, love the stranger without being able to fix the problem. These are all ways of rediscovering what it means to be with God and for God to be with us. The virus doesn’t have to dominate our lives: it creates a new situation for us to discover how God is at the centre of our lives.”
Conservative MP for St Ives and West Cornwall, Derek Thomas, told Premier Christian radio:
“I think this is an area that we’ll look back on with great regret. We’ve underestimated as a country, how important the physical gathering of Christians together and other faiths is to people and how important it is to their wellbeing and social interaction. We’re very concerned about people’s mental health and ability to stay connected and to support each other and the church in the UK is a fantastic place for that and we’ve kind of accepted maybe too easily that that can’t happen at the moment. My message to government is, please recognise the value of meeting together for faith groups, and enable that to happen, but again, still in a safe and sensible way.”