For the most part, places of worship will be closed in England for nearly a month as the country goes into its second lockdown.
The country's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, made the announcement of the lockdown over the weekend after details were leaked early to the press. "From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home. You may only leave home for specific reasons," Johnson said in the announcement. The lockdown is to end on Wednesday, December 2.
Premier Christian News reports that Johnson's announcement at first left confusion for churches and other places of worship as he left those details out of his speech. Information later provided online by the government says that:
"Places of Worship will be closed, unless they are being used for:
- To broadcast acts of worship
- Individual prayer
- Formal childcare or where part of a school
- Essential voluntary and public services, such as blood donation or food banks
- Other exempted activities such as some support groups"
Some religious organizations have raised concerns with the ban on gathering for worship, including the Catholic Church, as well as the Muslim Council of Britain.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon, president and vice president of the Catholic Church Bishops' Conference, called the ban "a source of deep anguish now that the government is requiring, once again, the cessation of public communal worship," in a statement posted online.
"Whilst we understand the many difficult decisions facing the government, we have not yet seen any evidence whatsoever that would make the banning of communal worship, with all its human costs, a productive part of combating the virus.
"We ask the government to produce this evidence that justifies the cessation of acts of public worship."
The Church of England says it's still reviewing what the ban means for faith communities.
The lockdown would span over four Sundays, including November 29, which is the first Sunday of Advent and the new year in the Christian calendar.