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Evangelical Alliance: Gov't needs to do better with including faith groups in coronavirus announcements

by Tola Mbakwe

The CEO of the UK Evangelical Alliance has said the Government needs to improve the way it handles places of worship when it announces new coronavirus restrictions. 

Last Tuesday, the new "rule of six" was announced which means that people cannot meet in more than groups of six indoors or outdoors starting from 14th September. Exceptions mentioned were organised sports, workplaces and education-related gatherings, but there was no mention of religious services. 

Galvin Calver told Premier that exclusion has to change. 

"We're not seen as a unique category," he said. Something gets announced [and says] 'excluded from this will be organised sports, and will be this and will be this'. There's no mention of faith groups meeting. I think that's problematic."

A day later the Archbishop of Canterbury said after having contact with the Government he could confirm that the "rule of six" did not impact religious services. 

Calver told Premier, despite the issues with announcements, the Church's access to the Government has been better than ever. 

"How do they [the Government] win in this context? They're struggling, it's difficult. They're doing their best, but there's more that could be done to support churches, of that there is no doubt. We will keep speaking up for that."

Meanwhile, Calver said UK churches need to continue to be vocal about religious liberty issues. He said churches did well with letting the Government know about the importance of churches opening again as soon as it was safe to do. He said Christians shouldn't get too relaxed now that lockdown has eased. 

"We should be saying together that this is a moment where the Church can help rebuild the United Kingdom, where the Church can offer an awful lot of the solution, where the church in offering that isn't going to just do social benefit without proclaiming the gospel," he said. 

"We want to make Jesus known, so we will keep fighting to say we will do lots to help rebuild this nation, but we also do need the freedom to be able to worship together. 

"We do need to be sensible too. Because wouldn't it be terrible if a load of the massive outbreaks were happening in churches? That would be the opposite to the message we want to give."

Calver also commended churches that are able to conduct services both in person and online. 

He said it's a lot of work to ensure all members are engaged and feel part of the church, no matter how they attend services. He mentioned that online prayer rooms and online rooms where someone can be led to Christ go a long way. 

"Numerous churches are doing the best they can in the building, and at the same time, they're making that the best they can online. None feels worse or better than the other. 

"I think the warmth of some of the leaders in engaging people through a camera or in person through masks and things has gone an awful long way to make a difference too."

Listen to Premier's interview with Gavin Calver here: 


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