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Coronavirus: UK churches consider ticketing system for services after lockdown

by Premier Journalist

Churches across the UK are thinking about introducing ticket-only services when they reopen later this summer in a bid to help congregants stick to social distancing guidelines. 

The idea is just one of many innovative strategies that churches have been contemplating ahead of a potential reopening date of 4th July. Other possible measures may include a ban on congregational singing, as experts believe this could dramatically increase the chance of transmission. Traditional communion, too, is likely to be axed for the time being. 

Churches are also expected to enforce social distancing by rearranging the seating and ensuring that adequate space is kept between worshippers. In addition, the ban on exchanging the peace through physical handshakes is likely to continue. Many churches may continue live streaming their services for those who are vulnerable or at-risk. They may also hold back-to-back services in order to reduce the number of people present in each gathering. 

This week, the Church of England said that their clergy would begin to stream services from their buildings, almost two months after the Archbishop Canterbuy, issued guidance that stated CofE buildings ought to be locked. 

Many vicars have been streaming their services for several weeks, despite Most Rev Jsutin Welby's advice to the contrary.

Rev  Marcus Walker, who is rector of St Bartholomew the Great in London, is one of them. He has been celebrating the Eucharist from his church sanctuary for over a month now. 

"When the Archbishop of Canterbury made his on-air clarification that what had previously been dressed up as instructions were in fact guidelines, [my church members] got in touch with me by the dozens... all of whom were asking me to start broadcasting our services from their church again," Rev Walker told Premier last month. 

Walker said it was "hugely important" for the "mental health and spiritual well-being" of his vulnerable parishioners to "see they are being prayed for in the place that they care about deeply."   

The role of the priest is to "to uphold our communities in prayer visibly and to help them through this awful time," he added.

Walker also noted that his services were "strictly following government guidelines," and that there "isn't with anyone else there" but him.

Speaking on the guidance issued to churches during lockdown and the power of individual churches to make a call on what is right for their community,

Rev Walker added that "the decision to end public worship in any church is one that has always been proper to and retained with the local community, the parochial church council and the local vicar."

"That's what the law of the land and church says," he added. "That decision is properly made at the local level." 

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