Faith leaders urged caution after the government announced that places of worship in England could remain open despite severe restrictions imposed by the recent coronavirus lockdown.
The Church of England said some people « may feel that it is now better not to attend in person, » and that clergymen who have concerns or are shielding themselves « should be extra careful and stay home ». .
A statement from Sarah Mullally, the Bishop of London who leads the C of E’s response to the pandemic, added: “We will continue to follow instructions and make sure the churches remain as safe as possible. ”
Alice Smith, the pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Brownswood Park, North London, tweeted, « There’s a part of me who wishes we’d been shut down so as not to go to bed with a seemingly impossible decision. « . Doesn’t help in the slightest to learn from the Twittersphere that one of the results is wrong, stupid, or dangerous. Hey ho. ”
Smith told the Guardian that « the benefits of public worship are enormous – especially since most of my congregations have poor access to technology ». . But she added, even though she thought her church building was Covid-safe, « I am aware that a lot of people come there for our soup kitchen and grocery bank. ”
She said, « I honestly don’t know what’s best. I would have been disappointed if the government told us to close, but at least it would have been cut and dried. ”
Harun Khan, the general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said some mosques in England have voluntarily ceased community activities in recent weeks « as a precautionary measure » and many Muslims have made individual decisions about the risk of going to their mosque going to pray.
Mosques should « take great care to remain open to the public » and provide online services and prayers for those staying at home, he added.
Qari Asim, chairman of the National Advisory Council on Mosques and Imams, said: « Voluntary closure of mosques should be considered by those mosques where risk assessments suggest that keeping open poses a serious risk to the welfare of worshipers. The preservation of life is an important Islamic principle … Nobody should feel pressured to visit a mosque during this pandemic. ”
The House of Representatives of British Jews said synagogues need to be « meticulous » in following Covid’s guidelines.
Last month, one in three congregations in the United Synagogue said they had closed due to concerns about the spread of the virus in their congregations. In response to the new announcement of the lockdown, Steven Wilson, General Manager of the United Synagogue said, “We will continue to support Shuls [synagogues] who have chosen to close and who are now thinking of closing. ”
However, the oldest Catholic in England and Wales reacted clearly to the liberation of places of worship. « I am glad that no action has been taken to obstruct or limit this essential source of energy for the common good, » tweeted Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster and the oldest Catholic in England and Wales.
During the November lockdown, Nichols urged the government to reverse its decision to ban community worship. There is no evidence that this would help fight the virus.
In Scotland, places of worship were ordered to close under new restrictions that went into effect on Tuesday. In Wales and Northern Ireland, they can stay open but must enforce social distancing measures.
Limited funerals and weddings are still allowed across the UK, but receptions and guards are prohibited.
World News – AU – Faith leaders in England advise caution over Covid Lockdown exception
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