Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the decision to lock the UK down and order people to stay at home in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted the daily lives of members of the public in a way not seen since wartime.
Can I go to church? Will my church be open tomorrow?
Announcing the lockdown, Boris Johnson said: “To ensure compliance with the Government’s instruction to stay at home, we will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship.”
The decision came after the Government spoke with various organisations across the country.
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Church open: Can I go to church? Will my church be open tomorrow?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We have taken advice on how to respond to the crisis, including from our ethics committee, which includes representatives of the major religious faiths.
“It is true that we include religious groups in our advice about social contact.
“We have seen from elsewhere in the world how sometimes it is through religious gatherings that the virus can spread, so, with the deepest regret and the heaviest of heart, we include faith groups and gatherings of faith within the advice.”
The advice from the Government applies to mosques, temples as well as churches.
Days before the Prime Minister’s announcement, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu respectively, suspended public worship.
The Church of England (CoE) initially said weddings would still go ahead.
However, Mr Johnson banned all social events including weddings and baptisms as part of the lockdown. Funerals have not been prohibited.
In the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s announcement, the CoE closed churches with immediate effect.
The bishops said: “In the light of the Government’s measures, announced by the Prime Minister this evening, we urge everyone to follow the instructions given.
“Our church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or layperson offering prayer in church on their own.
“A notice explaining this should be put on the church door.
“We must take a lead in showing our communities how we must behave in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.”
The CoE said funerals at the graveside or in crematoriums can still take place.
If the crematorium allows it, only immediate family members can attend – a spouse or partner, parents and children, while adhering to the social distancing measures.
Fran Hall, director and chief executive of the Good Funeral Guide, called for funerals to be banned.
She said: “The decision to exempt funerals from the current ban on social gatherings was undoubtedly made for compassionate reasons, but the current lack of clear instruction and direction is leading to anguish and suffering beyond imagination.”
The CoE will be offering a national weekly service which will be broadcast online each Sunday via social media and daily audio of prayer during the day and night prayer will also be available.
This is in addition to a wide range of resources local churches are sharing.
An estimated five million people heard or saw a service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury streamed online and broadcast through dozens of radio stations on Sunday – the largest single congregation in the history of the CoE.
The bishops said: “Our church buildings are closed but the church must continue to support and encourage our communities making use of telephones and other forms of technology to keep in touch with people and ensure pastoral care is maintained, and as shepherds of Christ’s flock we are committed to making this happen.”
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