Church buildings in Scotland have been closed as part of the latest lockdown changes.
The restriction, expected to last for “at least four weeks”, affects all of the mainland, preventing the vast majority of Christians in Scotland from meeting in person for communal worship.
Churches across England and Northern Ireland may continue to meet in person subject to social distancing restrictions. Public worship is currently possible in Wales but further announcements are expected this week.
The new stay at home order means church buildings will be closed for both public worship and private prayer, although churches which broadcast services from their church building may continue to do so.
Weddings and funerals can also continue to take place, although they will be limited to five and 20 people respectively.
Level 3 restrictions still apply in Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and some islands in Argyll and Bute and all islands in Highland except Skye, meaning churches may continue to open for public worship for up to 50 people, subject to social distancing.
Ciarán Kelly, The Christian Institute’s Deputy Director for Communications, said: “It’s good to see that, with the right precautions in place, church buildings in England can stay open. It is very disappointing and difficult to understand why the same provisions have not been made for Scotland.”
David Robertson, a former Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland who now lives in Australia, said on social media: “Closing churches and locking down is a blunt instrument that will do a great deal of harm – especially to the poor, elderly and children.”