The Bishop of Shrewsbury has praised the government for deciding to open up churches for the purpose of individual prayer. Though churches are not likely to fully reopen until early July, the permitting of supervised prayer is a big step for people of faith who have been feeling the absence of their usual places of worship during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Rt Rev Mark Davies said: “I very much welcome the long anticipated reopening of our churches. I am delighted the government has recognised how the priority of prayer and worship are central to the common good and to the rebuilding of society after the lock down.
“Every church stands as an invitation to pray and it was one of the most painful aspects of our national lockdown to see every church door locked and barred as people sought places of prayer and the presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
“The opening of church doors for private prayer will form a first step towards the public celebration of the mass and the sacraments.”
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the measure at the weekend, saying:
"Ensuring places of worship can open again, beginning with private prayer by individuals has been my priority.
"Their contribution to the common good of our country is clear, as places of solace, comfort, stability and dignity. And the need for them is all the greater as we weather the uncertainties of the pandemic.
"I'm pleased the Prime Minister has announced that this is expected to happen from June 15. As Communities Secretary, I have worked with faith leaders and representatives to prepare guidance that ensures this can be done safely.
"People of all faiths have shown enormous patience and forbearance, unable to mark Easter, Passover, Ramadan or Vaisakhi with friends and family in the traditional way.
"As we control the virus, we are now able to move forwards with a limited but important return to houses of worship."
A Number 10 spokeswoman added: "The Prime Minister recognises how important it is, at this unprecedented time, for people to have the space to reflect and pray, to connect with their faith, and to be able to mourn for their loved ones.
"The PM is so grateful to people of all faiths and none, who have followed the social distancing guidelines, and in doing so, protected their communities.
"We plan to open up places of worship for individual prayer in a safe, Covid-secure way that does not risk further transmission."
Rev Davies qualified that a full reopening of places of worship, slated for no sooner than 4th July, "will require patient preparation and will depend on the generosity and training of volunteers in every community."
However, "with teams of volunteers, safety resources and risk assessments in place," he said, "we can look forward to seeing the great sign of churches once more with open doors.”