The government has said that the new lockdown measures coming into effect from Thursday will ban worship services in England.
MPs are expected to vote for the measures on Wednesday. That means there’s still time for MPs to amend the legislation to allow churches to continue their worship services.
Please urgently contact your MP, asking them to allow worship services.
Why shouldn’t worship services be banned?
Church is not the building – it is the people. But, importantly, it’s the gathered people.
It’s the people of God, gathered to worship Him, to hear Him speak, to share Communion and to build one another up.
Even in countries where Christians face severe persecution, they gather secretly, sometimes with threats of prison or physical harm. They realise how central to the Christian faith being together is.
Virtual church, though much better than nothing, is no substitute for gathering together. It’s a real loss. Many church members have taken a significant mental and physical health hit from stopping church services.
Is it worth it?
- The government is intending to keep schools, colleges and universities open – which spread the virus much more than church services.
- It’s even keeping support groups for ‘people facing issues relating to their sexuality or gender’ open.
- Many businesses, even garden centres, will remain open through the lockdown.
- Churches and church attendees have been extremely Covid-compliant. We have not seen any report of churches being reckless in disregarding law or guidance, nor have we heard of a single outbreak at a church.
- Closing community centres and churches is projected by scientists to lower ‘R’ by 0.1 at most. This ban will likely make no discernable difference in fighting the virus – particularly as many churches will voluntarily close, or have even fewer worshippers.
- We are not aware of any significant Covid-clusters being spread through church services.
- The lockdown is due to last four weeks – but government spokespeople have already suggested it could well be longer.
In short, the government is saying that the coronavirus is dangerous enough to stop very Covid-safe church services indefinitely – but not enough to stop other activities.
This is not lawful. Our constitution – as well as human rights legislation – protects the independence of the Church to determine matters of worship. This kind of action is unprecedented in our nation’s long history until this year. This law would attempt to criminalise worship services – and this time, a number of churches may well meet anyway, being forced into a potential conflict with police.
No one wants this. And there’s still time to avoid it.
Please contact your MP as soon as possible, asking them to use their voice to protect worship services and to amend the legislation to allow worship services.
What to say to your MP
Please remember to be respectful as you contact your MP. Politicians are very busy at the best of times and are currently under very significant pressure. Being rude or deliberately offensive will only be counter-productive.
Tell your MP why this matters to you. Feel free to make any of the points that we’ve made above. But it will help most if you give your message a personal touch. If you are a church leader, or if your church does community work, be sure to say so.
You could also consider phoning your MP. The details are also on the parliament website. You will most likely only speak to a staff member but it will help MPs understand the strength of feeling about this.
We also recognise:
Not every church will want or be able to open. That’s entirely up to the church and its leaders – and in some cases the venue they hire. The important principle is that the decision is made by churches, not the state.
Not everyone can come to church anyway. Some people will need or want to take extra precautions. Some with long term illnesses are unable to come to church for extended periods. Churches should still use technology to help these members participate where possible. But people in this situation, even more than everyone else, will likely be aware of what we miss out on when we are not gathered together.
Rules are different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We are already supporting leaders of Welsh churches through the current firebreak. But MPs from all 4 nations of the United Kingdom can help challenge this ban in Parliament this week – so it is still helpful to write to your MP, wherever you are.
Our supporters come from different church backgrounds with different beliefs, practices and emphases. The Christian Concern family has supporters from very diverse church backgrounds and denominations. Different Christians will be more concerned with some elements than others. Some will find the loss of church services harder to bear than others. Even if you aren’t concerned about services stopping, could you speak out on behalf of your Christian brothers and sisters who are?
Write to your MP
Find out more about Church lockdown