Places of worship may open from now on. An earlier decision to allow this from Monday 15 June was suddenly changed to Saturday 13 June, in a government announcement on Friday morning. It took most churches by surprise and many stuck to their plans to open this week and beyond. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, has been credited with pushing through the opening of churches earlier than the government’s original intention of 4 July. He led a Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi on Sunday on BBC Radio 4 live from Westminster Cathedral, with two other people, all socially distanced.
Government guidelines say funerals can be held in Anglican churches from today, but weddings are still not allowed.
Mosques are re-opening at a cautious pace. Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said mosques should not rush and opening places for private prayer is “considerably challenging and impractical. We recommend that it is more useful for mosque leaders to invest their time and efforts into preparing for safely resuming congregational prayers from as early as 4 July, with timeframes in Scotland and Wales to be announced.” MINAB, the mosques and Imams national advisory board “suggests that small-scale congregational prayers are allowed as soon as safely possible so that a small number of people can hold five daily prayers in mosques in a congregation”.
The United Synagogue will not reopen synagogues yet, waiting instead until it is possible to have a minyan – at least ten people required for public prayer. However, rabbis will be able to broadcast from their synagogue. Rabbi Nicky Liss, chairman of the US Rabbinical Council, said, “According to Jewish tradition one can pray anywhere and at any time, but for formalised prayer services we require a minyan such as for saying Kaddish and reading from the Torah… We hope that we will be permitted return to our shuls as soon as if it safe to do so”.
As anti-racism demonstrations continued in towns and cities this weekend, the Bishop of Dover Rose Hudson, has said it is not acceptable that the leadership of the Church of England is all white. She told Sky News ‘Sophie Ridge on Sunday’ that the church must examine itself and it is not good enough for it to make pronouncements on other organisations. “I want every institution to look at itself…For too long we have been content…and taken it for granted that black people, we can do the cleaning, we can do the work in the kitchen, but we cannot sit at the table…enough is enough”. On the current unrest over statues of people who made their fortune from the slave trade, she said: “I personally don’t want those statues to be taken away, I would love to see a plaque written up that tells the true story, so that history can really be told in the right way”.
Churches across London rang their bells 72 times on Sunday, to remember the people who died in the Grenfell Tower disaster 3 years ago. On the night of 14 June 2017, places of worship were first to respond to the needs of people who had lost everything. The Minister of State for building safety, faith and communities, Lord Greenhalgh, paid tribute to them: “In the three years since the Grenfell tragedy, local faith communities have worked tirelessly to bring spiritual and practical support to the bereaved and the survivors whose lives were devastated by the fire… They have shown us a powerful example of what it means to care.” Full story here.
An orthodox rabbi was repeatedly stabbed on Stoke Newington High Street on Friday. Rabbi Alter Yaakov Schlesinger is in his 50s, from the strict Haredi group within Orthodox Judaism, which has a community in Stamford Hill nearby. He had reportedly been queueing outside the NatWest bank when he was stabbed repeatedly. He was taken to hospital by air ambulance and there are reports he has since returned home. A man has been arrested for attempted murder.