The Prime Minister said places of worship were permitted to reopen for prayer and service, although singing hymns will be banned during the service because of the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Church services are allowed to resume again from July 4 after three months of silence, but this time, worshippers must either learn to use sign language or miming, as no singing or shouting will be allowed in church, and people must stand at least a metre apart.
Churches can hold small services, but with strict rules. This new development comes a few weeks after churches were allowed to open just for private prayer. Some church leaders have criticised the government for failing to open earlier in order to better support the communities they serve during Britain’s worst health crisis for a generation.
Now, the government seem to have lifted one ban and placed another on the church. Places of worship can open, but they are told to avoid “singing, shouting, raising voices and/or playing music at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult.”
It may appear that the reason for this is because loud worship music has the potential for encouraging shouting, which would eventually raise an increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 from aerosol and droplets. But different church denominations pray and worship in a variety of ways. Some churches actually demand that worshippers should feel free to show their passion and emotions when they pray and worship loudly.
Pastor Lawrence Johnson of Assemblies of Jesus Church said, “Not all of us worship silently. Some of us need to use gesture, movement and vocalise our supplications.”
This new way of worshiping in the church means that during a one-to-one prayer session, a minister must refrain from making physical contact like laying hands on a worshipper’s forehead. It also means that spoken responses like “Amen” should also not be in a raised voice, and singing and playing of instruments that are blown into should be avoided as well. Organs are allowed but must be cleaned before and after use.
If it is required for a ceremony, one person should be allowed to sing or chant, and the use of plexi-glass screens should be considered to protect guests.
All church attendees should follow social distancing guidance, and venues should look at changing seating layouts, improve ventilation and use face coverings.
The new normal in places of worship means visitors should avoid touching property belonging to others, such as shoes, which if removed, should be placed and collected by their owner while adhering to social distancing principles.
Children in churches should be held by a parent, guardian or member of their household. The new way of worship in church means that communion will be limited to individually wrapped bread, and packs of communion wine. The sharing of communion cup is no longer allowed.
You can take your Bible to church, but must not share the reading with someone else other than someone from your household. Hymn book and communal Bibles must be put away. They are no longer allowed at the moment.
Wedding ceremonies will be allowed again with a maximum of 30 guests. So-called ‘life cycle events’ such as baptisms, mitzvahs and wedding ceremonies can take place ‘subject to social distancing’ from July 4, as part of easing the lockdown restrictions.
Where possible faith leaders should discourage cash donations and continue to use online or contactless giving and resources. Where this is not an option, cash should be collected in a receptacle that is set in one place and handled by one individual, as opposed to being passed around. Regular cleaning and hygiene should be maintained, and gloves worn to handle cash offerings where giving continues.
The rule will make services in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches very difficult. Churches would not be returning to “normality” and many churches would not be ready for this new normal.