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No church services in England for a month as part of national lockdown

by Cara Bentley

There will be no church services for just under a month, starting from Thursday 5th November and due to end Wednesday 2nd December. 

The Prime Minister did not mention Places of Worship in his Downing Street briefing but did say: "From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home. You may only leave home for specific reasons."

Clarification came from guidance on the Government's website afterwards which said: 

"Places of Worship will be closed, unless they are being used for:

  • Funerals
  • To broadcast acts of worship
  • Individual prayer
  • Formal childcare or where part of a school
  • Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks
  • Other exempted activities such as some support groups"

The omission of any information about religious gatherings at the press conference caused many church leaders and members to express their frustration that faith communities did not have their vital questions addressed while the hospitality sector and leisure industry were told how the lockdown would impact them. 

The Church of England had also not received clarification at the time, with Bishop of London, Rt Rev Sarah Mullally saying: “We will study the detailed regulations when they are published and seek clarification on how this may affect public worship.”

With the information about the national lockdown leaked to journalists early, the announcement was suddenly made on Saturday evening as opposed to Monday. 

The lockdown, announced by Boris Johnson on Saturday, will include four Sundays. 

Churches will be able to stay open for private prayer. 

John Stevens, national director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (FIEC) suggested that church leaders should organise a final service for Wednesday 4th November before congregations are limited from seeing each other again. He added that he felt churches' value to society "is simply not matched by government/public/media assessment."


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