Bishop’s ‘deep regret’ after churches told to halt worship services

The Rt Revd Martin Seeley said churches had proved they could open safely for worship Picture: KEITH

The Rt Revd Martin Seeley said churches had proved they could open safely for worship Picture: KEITH MINDHAM - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s most senior Church of England clergyman has spoken of his “deep regret” that churches will have to close for public worship – despite parishes proving they can hold services safely.

The Government has said churches can hold funerals with a maximum of 30 people attending and also open for personal prayer.

But communal worship will not be allowed during the four-week lockdown.

Churches across Suffolk have been holding Sunday services since mid-summer following the easing of the initial lockdown, with parishes carrying out risk assessments to work out how they can hold services safely – with those attending wearing masks, sitting socially distanced from each other, with no singing, and booking ‘tickets’ to attend to comply with track and trace. BIbles and hymn books have been removed.

The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, which covers most of Suffolk, said: “My prayers, gratitude, and appreciation are for all our health workers, school, and college teachers and staff, police, delivery drivers and all frontline workers as we go into another national lockdown.

“Our prayers and support are for all who are sick, those who are struggling to make ends meet, who are anxious about their jobs and for their families, those who are alone and isolated.

“We give thanks for the churches and community groups and the army of volunteers striving so hard to make a difference, providing food, support and care to all in need across our county.

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“I deeply regret that the Government is proposing to close churches and other places of worship for public worship, at a time when we need public prayer for this crisis.

“Churches are there for this, to be places of prayer at challenging times such as this, and we have shown and proved we can hold worship safely.

“We will of course, however, continue to pray in our homes through this national lockdown, and offer worship online, too, to support all our communities who are struggling with this awful pandemic.”

Many churches are open for specific periods each week for individuals to pray privately. Those going into the church are asked to follow Covid-secure rules including sitting in designated places and using santiser.