Churches can reopen for private prayer and contemplation
Churches can reopen for private prayer across Suffolk from today – but the county’s most senior Church of England clergyman has stressed that places of worship should not rush to do so.
The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, has welcomed the Government decision to allow a reopening of buidings for prayer but has told parishes that each must make their own decision based on whether they can remain safe for their communities.
People going into churches will see areas roped off, seats marked where they can sit safely two metres from one another, and be asked to enter by one door and leave by another. All Bibles, prayer books and other paper material will be removed.
In many places toilets will be closed to remove an extra cleaning burden.
Bishop Martin said: “This is a welcome first set to allow churches to open to those who wish to come and say prayers individually, or as a household.
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“Our church buildings are special places in our communities, and many individuals step inside churches for moments of quiet and solace. I am very pleased that we can begin to take these small steps to opening up.
“We have to be mindful of our responsibility to the community and minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus, and the risk will stay with us especially as more visitors come to Suffolk in the Summer.
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“I have made it clear to churches that if they cannot open up safely then they should not rush to do so. The decision should be a local one based on local circumstances and needs.
“Churches will continue to livestream services online and on social media. We have over 100 services broadcast online from across Suffolk every week with thousands joining in.”
The Government’s guidance makes clear that no worship services, including normal Sunday services and weddings can take place in church buildings at the moment. However, funerals can be held in those churches which can meet the social distancing, cleaning and hygiene requirements.
The new guidance stresses the communal nature of places of worship makes them particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID 19.
It is not known if any churches have reopened today for private prayer as most have been working towards the original date of Monday. It is expected that most will only open on certain days and for certain hours.