Any Government guidance issued to places of worship ahead of potential re-openings must engage fully with the diversity of church life across the UK, CARE said today.
In the recently published ‘Our Plan to Rebuild’, the government said places of worship might be able to open as part of phase three of the easing of lockdown, but only if it was safe to do so and no earlier than 4 July.
Meetings have already taken place with senior faith leaders, and the Government said it would issue guidance ahead of any re-opening.
Now, in a letter to the Prime Minister, CARE’s Chief Executive Nola Leach said that the guidance needs to recognise church involves more than just Sunday services. She said:
“the UK Church is normally a hive of activity which extends further than the Sunday service – from outreach and compassionate projects, to small mid-week meetings, to children’s and family work” before going on to say “this diversity needs to be engaged with if the guidance is to be truly useful and relevant.”
In the letter, Nola asks the Prime Minister to:
“consider publishing specific guidance for churches in advance of any potential re-opening from 4 July” saying that ‘this will greatly assist church leaders with their planning and preparations’.
The fact that churches across the country also meet in a variety of different types of buildings, from Cathedrals, to hired community halls and rented cinema space, also needs to be engaged with.
Clear, detailed and specific guidance for churches, which recognises the sheer variety church life, would best equip leaders to make wise decisions ahead of any potential re-opening.
CARE Chief Executive, Nola Leach, said:
“Church is more than just a building, it’s the people who together make up the Church of Jesus Christ in our nation.
“Not being able to gather together with fellow Christians to worship and spend time together has been one of the hardest parts of lockdown for Christian communities.
“Of course, we also want to play our part in the national effort to contain the coronavirus and help save lives.
“So, while it’s good to see places of worship mentioned in the Government’s roadmap for recovery, we need proper, detailed and extensive guidance for church leaders, ahead of any re-opening.
“Churches play an immensely important role in national life and there’s many different expressions of church across the country and we’re calling on the Government to recognise this.
“Otherwise, the guidance will end up being overly broad and while it might help some churches, many will be left feeling unsure about the next steps.
“Church leaders need to know how the restrictions might apply within the context of different church buildings and what the impact will be on various ministries, from Sunday services, to small groups and outreach ministries.
“We stand ready to support the Government in this endeavour and I’m pleased to see some engagement with senior church figures. I would encourage the Government to maintain this dialogue and speak to as many denominations as possible.
“Of course, we recognise it’s nearly impossible to plan for every possible scenario, but we’re clear that the guidance should still be as specific as possible. This will give church leaders and congregations the maximum confidence ahead of a potential re-opening.
“The Church in the UK has responded to the coronavirus challenge in some astonishing and amazing ways and I’m sure the safety of worshippers will continue to be a top priority.”