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Town centre chaplain in area plunged into Tier 3 tells of caution among Christians

by Chantalle Edmunds

A town centre chaplain in part of the country that has dropped from Tier 1 into Tier 3 has told Premier she doesn't think many Christians in the area will come back to church any time soon. 

Kent now has the highest rates of Covid-19 in the country and faces the most stringent tier of coronavirus restrictions from December 2, the Government announced on Thursday.

Two Kent boroughs, Swale and Thanet, have the two highest rates of Covid-19 infection in England, according to data analysis from the PA news agency.

Jeanette McLaren is Town Centre Chaplain in Sheerness, Swale, she told Premier there's worry among Christians in the area and many didn't return to church, even when permitted, before the second lockdown.

"And when we opened up the churches to begin to worship, again with social distances, many people didn't come back. Some people haven't returned to church, you know, in that little period we had. So, I would say people are concerned about it."

"I think many people still won't come back. I mean, we are doing a live streaming. And a lot of people have appreciated that. And I myself did two funerals of what I call COVID funerals. And I get the impression that people, well, won't be rushing back to church.

She added she wasn't surprised that the area has been plunged into the highest tier of restrictions and that a "huge number" of people in Sheppey don't comply when it comes to mask wearing.

"We have a local train on and off the island and my colleague has been concerned for some time that people aren't wearing masks.

"My husband does shopping since lockdown. We're very careful about not going out. But he gets very angry about the fact that people don't wear masks. So not everyone complies put it that way, you know, most, some people do, but there's a huge number that don't comply."

Some of the highest case rates in the country are currently seen in Kent. Rising case rates in people aged over 60 are a particular concern.

In the seven days to November 21, Swale recorded an infection rate of 535.0 per 100,000, the highest in England.

Jeanette McLaren said Christians should pray for discernment when it comes to worship in the area:

"Praying for those that haven't been able to go to their churches, for their safety, but they are feeling isolated ... I think just praying for discernment, but this time for church leaders. And I would say, and because some of us are keen to meet up and some of us are being more kind, kind of careful that there's a discernment and wisdom about that in working together."

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