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'It's not the same when you've got a mask up and you can't sing': Bolton pastor talks about worship amid Indian variant rise

by Chantalle Edmunds

A Bolton pastor has reflected on the local restrictions imposed on the town following an increase in the numbers of people contracting the Indian variant of Covid-19.

John Bradbury is a minister at Farnworth Baptist Church in Bolton; the town is newly affected by tougher local restrictions.

It's one of eight places in England where people are being urged to avoid non-essential travel in and out of the area as a result of the Indian variant. The other areas are Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow North Tyneside and Blackburn with Darwen.

The government's denied issuing new coronavirus advice 'out of the blue' to people in the eight hot-spots but local authorities in the areas where cases are rising fastest have said they were unaware of the new guidance which is on the government's website and no official announcement's been made.

"Particularly in Bolton, we were in lockdown before everyone else was, and people are concerned about local businesses, and about people are really needing things to start picking up." Pastor John told Premier.

When it comes to worshipping in-person, he added his church has only done "limited things" because of the small church worship space and added that people have had enough of restrictions: 

"We have a coffee shop in the church building. So we opened the coffee shop and people came at different times together, and it was great to be together. We just really don't want any more restrictions that may cut things down. We had a wedding at the weekend and it was great to see that go ahead. But people have had really too much of restrictions and feeling that it's not the same. Even gathering together, it's not the same when you've got a mask up and you can't sing, that's not why we're there. Which is why, to a certain extent, we've kept some of our stuff online, for the moment, because we've got a good response to that. We don't want it to get worse again."

When it comes to vaccine take-up, Pastor John told Premier he doesn't think there's a real reluctance to getting vaccinated.

"There seems to be, I think, certain pockets where there's been lower vaccination rates, it tends to be closer into the town centre. You've got multi generation households, you've got poor housing conditions, you've got people who can't work from home because they're working in the care sector, you've got everything that's needed for the virus to spread in those areas. And because of work commitments and other things, I don't think it's a reluctance to be vaccinated, I think people just don't get around to it because they they're so busy trying to make ends meet."

When it comes to prayer. he added that there is one obvious thing that Christians can be praying for: "Pray that that it will go away. I think also praying about the fear that's being generated in a lot of the news which tends to kind of highlight what's really bad. There's a lot of cases being reported. That's because there's a lot with the surge testing, we've got volunteers going door to door and the testing happening

"The positives are that, although the infection rates aren't going down, it doesn't seem to be having the effect it did earlier in the year. And I guess the vaccine is something to do with it. So give thanks for vaccine and for all that's going on. And also give thanks for the voluntary sector, the churches and other faith communities who really pulled together and continue to work together to make sure that the town is well supported."

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