How long can worship be curtailed?

8 March 2021

Communications Manager Paul Huxley comments on the importance of corporate worship and enjoying church fellowship together.

It’s about a year since most churches in the United Kingdom sung together with one voice.

How long can this be sustained?

Feeling alienated from God’s people and from praising God is not new to the coronavirus world.

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation
 and my God. (Psalm 42:4-5 ESV)

It’s one thing to be estranged due to circumstances. By the waters of Babylon, exiled Jews asked “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” when oppressed by their captors.

Right now, churches are more free in law to worship than nearly any practice. In a way, that’s good – it shows again how church leaders do not need the threat of prosecution to take sensible precautions for their members’ wellbeing.

But as – by God’s grace – the risk from the virus subsides we are going to have to start taking some risks.

Just suppose we achieve Covid zero this summer. What happens come when traditional flu season comes? There will still be pressure within and without the Church to enact social distancing measures – after all, stopping the flu also saves lives and protects the NHS. How could anyone justify not wearing a mask and speaking face to face?

Are we okay with this?

I’m all for precaution and for innovative solutions. I spent around 8 hours outside in freezing weather on Christmas Eve setting up and leading musicians, a choir and two congregations in carol singing. There are good, smart ways churches can find to lovingly reduce risks.

As we rehearsed that day, we quietly sang Silent Night. I could hear some of my church family’s voices praising God together for the first time in 9 months. I wept. As hard as I and many musicians have worked this year to bring sung worship into people’s homes, nothing matches up to singing with one voice as a whole church family.

It’s not just about singing of course. It’s the bread and the wine. It’s “greeting one another with a holy kiss” – normally applied in our churches as a warm smile and handshake.


When do we get these things back?

We cannot eliminate risk altogether. As Peter Leithart says, we cannot cancel love in the name of love. How are church leaders going to lead their congregations back to church, back to gathered worship when the risks aren’t altogether eliminated?

This week sees arguments in the Scottish courts over the current policy to ban gathered worship during the present lockdown. Christian Legal Centre is supporting church leaders who want the freedom to make the decision on whether or not to gather for worship.

This is not irresponsible. It is acknowledging that there is more to life than eliminating risks. Acknowledging that risk is unavoidable – the question to be answered is whether the reward is worth it.

Pastors aren’t public health officials. They should understand the risks. But no one should know the rewards better than church leaders. They are best placed to judge whether to open for gathered worship.


Find out more about Church lockdown
  • Share

Related articles

All content has been loaded.

Take action

Join our email list to receive the latest updates for prayer and action.

Find out more about the legal support we're giving Christians.

Help us put the hope of Jesus at the heart of society.