The Christian Institute has branded the ban on public worship in England a “colossal mistake”, as the lifting of the restriction is announced.
The Government today announced the national lockdown in England would not be extended, and that church buildings would be permitted to reopen for public services.
The Institute, which criticised the decision to close churches earlier this month, welcomed the move, and said the Government should provide assurances “that churches will not be put in lockdown again”.
Director Colin Hart said: “We are delighted and relieved that churches will be able to re-open from 2 December.
“Church closures led many Christians to contact their MP. Today’s announcement is long overdue. What we need now is an assurance that the Government will never shut churches again.
“Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty admitted the Government did not have good evidence to justify the forced closure of churches.
“Some 1,500 church ministers co-signed a letter calling for an end to the ban, and the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and other religious leaders spoke out. Many Christians contacted politicians and scores of MPs criticised the decision in Parliament.”
He continued: “In the second lockdown ministers seemed to believe that opening gardening centres was ‘worth the risk’ but opening churches was not. This sent a very damaging signal about their view of the place of the Christian faith in our national life.
“Public worship has not been suspended since before Magna Carta. Since then, through plagues and the Blitz, churches have remained resolutely open.
“We recognise the huge pressure the Government has been under with the COVID pandemic, but their actions have focussed on meeting people’s health and economic needs. Vitally important though these are, people are not merely material beings. As Jesus said, ‘man does not live by bread alone’.
“Many have been experiencing fear and isolation. But spiritual needs have been side-lined. Churches have been closed at the very time they needed to be open. Shutting them was a colossal mistake and one that must never be repeated.”