Almost 700 leaders of UK churches have told the Prime Minister and First Ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales not to close churches again amid fresh efforts to reduce cases of coronavirus.
The open letter, co-authored by Institute Trustee Revd William Philip and four other church leaders from around the UK, is clear in its support for applying measures to combat the virus whilst keeping churches open.
Since the letter was sent to national leaders, it has now exceeded 700 signatories and more names continue to be added.
Hope of Christ
Churches closed in March and only reopened again in July, and the letter expresses concerns that with tighter restrictions being imposed, churches could be at risk of closure once again.
It states: “As we live in the shadow of a virus we are unable to control, people urgently need the opportunity to hear and experience the good news and hope of Jesus Christ, who holds our lives in his hands.”
And adds: “We have been and will remain, very careful to apply rigorous hygiene, social distancing and appropriate risk assessment in our churches. As a result, church worship presents a hugely lesser risk of transmission than pubs, restaurants, gyms, offices and schools; and it is more important than them all.
“We therefore wish to state categorically that we must not be asked to suspend Christian worship again.”
Revd Philip told The Christian Institute: “Death is not a chance for some of us, but a certainty for all of us.
“What our society needs always, but especially amid an epidemic of fear, is to witness the worshipping church holding out the gospel of eternal hope.”
The Institute understands from the letter’s authors that officials at Number 10 have given reassurances that the Government has “no intention to close churches again” in England.
The Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly said it was significant the letter had been sent to the leaders of each country within the United Kingdom because of the differences in treatment of churches.
“In Northern Ireland, the Executive got their priorities right. The decision to let churches open before much of the leisure sector – albeit by just a few days – recognised that public worship has a significance far beyond the economic.
“In England, indoor public worship only returned on 4 July – the same time as pubs reopened. Churches in Wales followed on 13 July. Scotland only allowed them to reopen on 15 July after a public outcry and then unjustly set a limit of 50 people in a place of worship ‘regardless of its size or capacity’ which still remains in place.
“In our worship services we come humbly before God and celebrate our relationship with him. We are not just individuals but a community of believers, praising and worshipping God together.”