Churches reopening – what do we know?

26 June 2020

This week saw a wave of announcements from the government on the reopening of society following the coronavirus lockdown.

Most significantly for Christians, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that churches would be free to reopen for worship services and weddings from 4 July, subject to social distancing measures.

Church leaders are still waiting for clear guidelines on what these measures would be. The prime minister’s statement mentioned a cap of 30 people but didn’t clarify whether this was for all such services or just for weddings.

Since this, the government has indicated to church leaders that the restriction would apply to weddings only. Second Church Estates Commissioner Andrew Selous made the point in Parliament but no official statement has been made in public to date.

Church leaders and denominations are now scrambling for more details as they try to find out what the government is willing to permit. However, as Andrea Williams comments, the principle of freedom of worship still stands – it is not the government’s legal right to interfere with the ministry of the Word or sacraments.

“The Church has her own governance. Apostles, archbishops, bishops, vicars, presbyters, pastors, elders, deacons – whatever they are called and what ever ecclesiology they hold, they rule over a church’s worship and it is they – not MPs, Lords or Health and Safety Inspectors – who have authority and responsibility over their flock.” 

When the government publishes its guidance – which has taken longer than anticipated – it is expected, at the very least, to strongly advise that only one person may sing indoors.

Whilst being grateful that the government will no longer be banning all church meetings,  let’s pray that it soon restores church independence, leaving the decision about when and how to resume services in the hands of church leaders.

Find out more about Church lockdown
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