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UK News

Churches will be re-opened in phased way after lockdown, bishops say

by Press Association

Churches could reopen in a "phased" way once lockdown measures begin to be lifted, Church of England leaders have said.

During a video-conference call on Tuesday the church's House of Bishops agreed in principle to lifting the closure of church buildings "in time and in parallel" with the Government's approach.

In a statement it said that members had agreed to three stages of re-opening church buildings once infection levels improve.

The first phase would allow "very limited" access for activities such as streaming services or private prayer by clergy, so long as social distancing and hygiene precautions are taken, it added.

Some rites and ceremonies could then go ahead in phase two if permitted by law and if similar precautions are taken.

The final phase would allow worship with "limited congregations" so long as Government restrictions are eased enough to allow this.

At the meeting, led by Bishop of London Dame Sarah Mullally, the House of Bishops agreed that the decision on the timing of when to implement the revised advice on ministers or worship leaders praying and streaming from their church buildings should be made by individual diocesan bishops.

It stressed that this was guidance and not an instruction or law, and said that it will be constantly reviewed depending on the national situation.

National Church of England guidance will also be updated in the "coming days" with further advice on how the stages could be lifted, it added.

Bishop Sarah said: "We are hugely grateful for all that our churches and clergy have been doing to support the Government's message to stay at home, to support the NHS, and to save lives.

"While it is clear there will be no imminent return to normality, the emphasis is now turning towards how and when aspects of social distancing can be eased, although we remain mindful of the potential risks of a second wave of the virus.

"Nevertheless, it now makes sense for us to start to look ahead to the potential easing of restrictions so that our clergy and churches can be prepared."

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