ALL churches are to close immediately, the Prime Minister announced on Monday, as he imposed strict new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Boris Johnson said on Monday evening that places of worship were among the premises that had to close immediately, along with libraries, playgrounds, most shops, and outdoor gyms. He said that people should stay at home, except to shop for basic necessities, take exercise, address medical needs, and travel to and from essential work.
A statement was issued by Church House a few minutes afterwards. It said that the announcement “means all Church of England churches will close with immediate effect in line with the Government’s instructions. There will also be no weddings or baptisms.
“Funerals at the graveside or in crematoriums can still take place, but only in line with the Prime Minister’s Statement.”
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York said in a joint statement: “In the light of the Government’s measures, announced by the Prime Minister this evening, we urge everyone to follow the instructions given.
“We will give a fuller statement of advice as soon as possible. Let us continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable, and build our communities, even while separated.”
On Sunday, the Bishops of London, Southwark, Chelmsford, and Rochester ordered all churches in London to close immediately, because cases of Covid-19 in the capital were rising faster than in the rest of the country.
That ban has now been extended to the whole of the UK. Mr Johnson also made specific mention of the ban on weddings and baptism in his statement.
The new rules will be applied initially for three weeks, he said, and would be reviewed then. He mentioned that the Government had the facility to impose fines on people who refused to comply.
The chairman of the Association of English Cathedrals, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said in a statement: “It is with a heavy heart that we close our cathedrals during this crisis as a necessary contribution to keeping all of us healthy and safe. This move goes against our established pattern of being open and available for everyone. . .
“Yet, when human touch and closeness have become risky, and even toxic, it doesn’t mean that God is far away, but that the Church has to find new, creative, and imaginative ways of being available, enabling prayer and worship, and listening carefully to everyone’s needs and questions.
“Cathedrals will be keeping their daily patterns of prayer going. They will be at the heart of local initiatives to serve and meet need.”