Collective worship in England will not take place before phase three of the plan to exit lockdown begins, a Government minister has said.
Faith Minister Lord (Stephen) Greenhalgh said communal prayer could take place from 4th July at the earliest.
It was announced at the weekend that churches and other places of worship can open for private prayer from 15th June.
But when asked when communal worship could return, Lord Greenhalgh told the Religion Media Centre’s (RMC) Zoom briefing: “The earliest possible moment would be at step three which is 4th July.”
He added: “We need to recognise that some form of collective or public worship is happening pretty much everywhere else apart from the United Kingdom and I think we just need to be ready by 4th July, in terms of having the guidance ready to go.”
Lord Greenhalgh told the briefing the Government recognises how religious groups differ in how important collective prayer is and that discussions with faith leaders have been “very difficult” because of all the measures that need to be considered.
He added weddings and funerals were also likely to take precedence over collective services.
Lord Greenhalgh said: “Our proposals were to look at easements before public worship or corporate worship.
“We were thinking about small wedding services rather than celebrations, post-cremation and burial rituals such as stone-setting, as well as individual prayer in the first instance, before moving to opening up for collective worship.”
Lord Greenhalgh said differences in size between places of worship would also have an impact on social-distancing measures that could allow services to take place.
He said: “We’ve got cathedrals and very small places, and therefore the actual decision about when a place is safe is down to not the Government but its the places of worship themselves.”
Picture: A notice on the doors of Westminster Cathedral informs the faithful that the cathedral is closed but plans to reopen for private, individual prayer on 15th June. Faith Minister Lord Greenhalgh said that communal prayer will not take place until 4th July at the earliest. (Mazur/cbcew.org.uk).