Bishop urges caution but welcomes go-ahead for worship services to resume
PUBLISHED: 19:24 01 July 2020 | UPDATED: 19:24 01 July 2020
Suffolk’s senior Church of England clergyman is encouraging parishes to adopt a “cautious reopening process” following the news that churches can hold public worship and weddings from this weekend.
The Government has issued guidance to ensure reopening happens as safely as possible and minimise the risk of spreading infection, and that includes requirements of social distancing, hand washing entering and leaving, not using hymn or prayer books or Bibles, and no congregational singing.
They are also advised to keep a register and personal details of everyone who attends for the track and trace programme.
Not all churches will be expected to open at first.
The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, said: “We are encouraging a cautious reopening process, while continuing some of the valuable online worship for those who do not wish to gather in a church building.
“There will still be restrictions and we must all work within Government guidance. This is the next step on a longer journey, but this is nonetheless very welcome news.
“I would particularly like to publicly thank clergy, churchwardens, lay leaders and all those who have done all they possibly could during the time our buildings had to be closed to the public.
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“Of course not all church buildings will be ready to hold regular services from July 4, and we must consider clergy and lay leaders whom themselves are vulnerable, so we need to make sensible plans going forward.
“It is wonderful that weddings will also be allowed again from the same date and I know this will be really welcome news to many couples across Suffolk looking forward to their marriages.
“The Government has set a limit of 30 people for weddings for now and we will work hard to help couples as they plan their big day.
“Some parishes are looking at ways to livestream marriage services to include those friends and family who cannot be there due to restrictions.
“We are also mindful of those who are still asked to stay at home. Many people will still be understandably cautious about public gatherings.
“This has been an extraordinary time in the development of online services and we now have more than 150 services live streamed online from churches right across Suffolk.
“I hope some parishes will keep live streaming services from their home or churches too, to compliment worship in churches.”
A number of Suffolk churches have already opened for certain hours each week for private prayer with churches putting in place measures in line with government guidance to keep those visiting safe.
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