Many of us were expecting to hear the Prime Minister say something about places of worship, alongside shops and parks, in his statement on Thursday evening regarding the easing of lockdown restrictions. On scientific advice, the Government has however decided church and other faith buildings must remain shut to the public until at least 4 July, which is targeted as the next milestone for easing restrictions beyond the current announcements.
I know that, like me, a lot of people will feel disappointed and frustrated by that. While, of course, the Church is not a building, for many people our sacred spaces are incredibly significant in their lives and faith as well as being at the centre of community life, especially at times of deep need as at present.
The Church of England bishops, led by the Bishop of London in this case, continue to work with the Government to ensure that we can begin to reopen our places of worship in a phased way as soon as it is deemed safe and practical to do so. Active planning is in process to that end, and detailed advice is being developed to help local churches plan for the practical challenges of enabling opening for individual prayer, weddings, funerals and other important rites to take place and then, in due course, a resumption of public worship services.
So, hard as it is, I continue to ask for your patience and co-operation as we await further announcements during the course of June.
Bishop of Barking and Acting Bishop of Chelmsford.