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Church News

Taskforce of religious leaders meets with Government to develop plan to reopen churches

by Cara Bentley

 Faith leaders and the Government have met and agreed to look at the timeline for churches coming out of lockdown, including possibly allowing places of worship to open at different times dependent on their community and practice. 
This follows the first virtual meeting on Friday of the new Places of Worship Taskforce which includes leaders and representatives from the major faiths.

Member of the task force include: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Imam Asim Yusef, Rajnish Kashyap from the Hindu Council UK, Jasvir Singh from City Sikhs and Daniel Singleton from Faith Action. 
Earlier this week the Government set out its target to reopen places of worship in step three of its plan to lift restrictions, which is expected to be no earlier than 4th July, subject to further scientific advice. That would be at a similar stage to other places of longer, phsycial contact - such as hairdressers and cinemas. 
The task force agreed to consider whether some forms of worship, such as individual prayer, might be permitted in places of worship before they fully reopen in step three, where appropriate and safe to do so in line with social distancing guidelines. 
They also agreed to consult their faith communities on changes.

The Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP also confirmed that Faith Action will receive £125,000 from the Chancellor's fund for charities to consult and engage with different places of worship across the country to ensure their views are represented at the taskforce's meetings.

Mr Jenrick said: "I realise how challenging being separated from their communities has been for people of faith. That's why I have convened the Places of Worship Taskforce to establish how religious practices can safely resume outside the home as soon as possible.   

"Today's first meeting of the Taskforce was very productive. We will now work together with all faith communities to understand how we can open places of worship as a priority, while continuing to prioritise safety. I look forward to working with the Taskforce over the coming weeks to reach a solution."
Faith Minister and peer Lord Stephen Greenhalgh has also been holding a series of roundtable discussions with faith representatives over the last few weeks and commented: "We realise that practical issues such as the size of both physical buildings and congregations are significant but we are determined to find a way to safely reopen places of worship as soon as possible, ensuring that people are not put at undue risk."
The taskforce will produce guidance jointly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on how places of worship across England can reopen safely. 
For now, churches must remain closed but funerals are still able to go ahead where safe. 

Other faith representatives and government officials may be invited to attend future meetings depending on the taskforce's priorities.

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