Over 600 UK church leaders urge the government not to close churches again

24 September 2020

More than 600 UK church leaders, ministers and pastors have called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and the First Ministers of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, not to lockdown churches again as the country sees tighter coronavirus restrictions being imposed.

In an open letter authored by five pastors from across the UK and now signed by over 600, church leaders call on the nation’s leaders to “refrain from socially damaging restrictions” and “not to close churches again.”

Churches and other places of worship in the UK have only been allowed to open since 4 July this year, and even then with some restrictions still in place. The letter notes that many pastors across the UK,

“are troubled by policies which prioritise bare existence at the expense of those things that give quality, meaning and purpose to life. Increasingly severe restrictions are having a powerful dehumanising effect on people’s lives, resulting in a growing wave of loneliness, anxiety and damaged mental health. This particularly affects the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, even as it erodes precious freedoms for all. In our churches, many have been working tirelessly to provide help to those most affected.”

The church leaders warn that:

“The public worship of the Christian church is particularly essential for our nation’s wellbeing. As we live in the shadow of a virus we are unable to control, people urgently need the opportunity to hear and experience the good news and hope of Jesus Christ, who holds our lives in his hands. … We have been and will remain, very careful to apply rigorous hygiene, social distancing and appropriate risk assessment in our churches. As a result, church worship presents a hugely lesser risk of transmission than pubs, restaurants, gyms, offices and schools; and it is more important than them all. We therefore wish to state categorically that we must not be asked to suspend Christian worship again. For us to do so would cause serious damage to our congregations, our service of the nation, and our duty as Christian ministers.”

The letter is reminiscent of a pre-action letter sent to the government by a group of 25 church leaders in May of this year, and supported by Christian Concern. That letter argued that the government’s lockdown restrictions on churches at that time were both unlawful and unnecessary. The government subsequently backed down and removed nearly every legal restriction on churches meeting.

Current guidelines

The current rules affecting public gatherings and places of worship now allow churches to be open and conduct in-person services, provided pastors have done a full risk assessment and take the necessary measures to maintain social distancing. Any restriction on the number of worshippers is determined by the number that can be accommodated whilst still observing social distancing. The requirement for wearing face coverings remains in place for indoor services but does not apply to outdoor services.

You can read more about what the new lockdown measures mean for church services from the Christian Legal Centre’s Rob Smith.

Find out more about Church lockdown
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