Covid: Church of England services hit by pandemic

More than half of the Church of England’s 14,000 parishes will not open for Sunday services later, as places of worship are hit hard by Covid-19.

Many of the Church’s clergy are shielding, while some parishes have decided it is not safe enough to admit worshippers.

It has also been revealed that most mosques in London remained closed on Friday.

Muslims had to make alternative arrangements for Friday prayers.

Despite current coronavirus restrictions, places of worship in England and Wales can open – but many are struggling to do so safely.

Places of worship remain closed throughout Scotland, while Northern Ireland’s main church denominations are to cease public worship until early February.

The Church of England has told the BBC that more than half of its parishes – including some cathedrals – will not open for communal prayer on Sunday.

Many have moved their worship online – a solution that has proved popular with some Christians, but denies many the comfort of physical unity.

The Church said that some of its clergy are shielding, and that all parishes are making their own decision on the best course of action.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales says its parishes that are able to follow what it calls the stringent government guidelines will continue to open.

Britain’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, had criticised previous orders for churches to close.

Meanwhile, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board has told the BBC that although most mosques in England and Wales did open for Friday prayers, the majority in London did not – and it says it has asked its members in areas where the infection rate is rising to work closely with Public Health England and local authorities.

Under the latest lockdowns in the UK, there are changes to usual practices for worshippers of all religions.

In the areas of the UK where communal worship is allowed, a number of common measures are in place, such as carrying out services in the shortest possible time, and ensuring worshippers do not mingle with anyone not in their own household or support bubble.

Faith leaders have broadly accepted the need for restrictions, and urged worshippers to look after their health.

The Muslim Council of Britain urges “strong caution for mosques wishing to continue remaining open to the public for worship… and for tremendous care to be exercised”.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, who has been in charge of the Church of England’s plans for resuming services, has said that “some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person… Clergy who have concerns, and others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home”.

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