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Verger Luke Marshall Chichester Cathedral credit Andrew Matthews PA.jpg
Verger Luke Marshall Chichester Cathedral credit Andrew Matthews PA.jpg
UK News

Church leaders debate whether to open in Tier 4 amid backlash at communal worship being allowed

by Cara Bentley

Places of worship can legally stay open in all parts of the UK but church leaders are urging vicars and ministers to review their plans and think about whether they should, with some pastors deciding to close. 

Churches can stay open for services in all tiers in England, even in the new Tier 4 level which restricts people leaving their home except for essential reasons.

This means families in Tier 4 could still see each other at church on Christmas Day, although would not be able to ‘mix’, interact or mingle.

Churches in Wales can also remain open despite the country going into a stricter lockdown from today.

Stricter measures will come into force in Northern Ireland and Scotland on Boxing Day and churches will remain open there too.

A joint statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Bishop of London, Sarah Mullaly, said "we are grateful that, even in Tier 4, church buildings can be open this Christmas.

“But I urge everyone to take precautions and, especially for those in Tier 4, to be exceptionally careful.

“Even though attending public worship is permitted, many people may feel it is currently better they do not do so.

“Clergy and others who are shielding should certainly feel no compulsion.”

After Boris Johnson announced the changes to Christmas plans on Saturday evening, many people joked they would need to become religious in order to see their family at Christmas. Others felt it was unfair. 

Atheists Ricky Gervais and Richard Dawkins both commented on the allowance. 

 

 

 

 

Many churches had planned outdoor carol services, or indoor ones with performers only, for Sunday which went ahead as planned. 

 

Others decided it was the right thing to close. 

 

Before the Prime Minister's announcement on Saturday, director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) , John Stevens, spoke to Premier about whether people should go to church just because they can: "I think there's a very great difference with churches that are observing the guidance, which is making sure people are only in the appropriate groups in Tier 3 areas, only coming in groups that are households anyway. I think church is a safe place to go, providing churches are observing all of that guidance."

He added: "Those who have a greater risk should perhaps think very carefully before going and joining in at church and putting themselves at risk and that's why churches are continuing to maintain online serices and events so that people who are vulnerable or who are concerned about coming to church can still join together and benefit."

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