Bishop of Norwich on ‘positive step’ to reopen places of worship

The Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: Diocese of Norwich

The Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: Diocese of Norwich - Credit: Archant

News Norfolk’s places of worship can begin to open from June 15 for individual prayer has been hailed a positive step by the Bishop of Norwich.

The Rt Revd Graham Usher​ has written to clergy, readers and churchwarden following the government announcement on Saturday.

Earlier on Saturday, Norwich Cathedral set out its plans to reopen for private prayers which would include a one way system and areas of the building remaining closed to the public.

Under the reopening guidance set out last night, individuals are expected to be able to “reflect and pray” while adhering to social-distancing rules - but worship groups, weddings and other services will still not be permitted.

In his letter Rt Revd Usher said:​ “This news is a positive step and a marker on what will likely be a long journey back to the full use of these sacred places and treasure troves of the memories of our communities.

“I am conscious that a number of clergy, lay leaders and volunteers are themselves needing to isolate or shield others. This means that the opening of church buildings may take longer in some places than others. In multi-parish benefices it might be worth opening one or two church buildings to begin with and steadily rolling this out as volunteer support becomes available and safety measures can be put in place. The key thing is that we move forward steadily and safely as that is how we can best ‘love our neighbour’.”

More: Date hairdressers and barbers set to reopen revealedDowning Street said the changes would only be made if the Government’s five tests for easing lockdown are met, with places of worship coming under step three of the Government’s road map and are not due to fully reopen until at least July 4.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: “People of all faiths have shown enormous patience and forbearance, unable to mark Easter, Passover, Ramadan or Vaisakhi with friends and family in the traditional way.

“As we control the virus, we are now able to move forwards with a limited but important return to houses of worship.”

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A Number 10 spokeswoman added: “The Prime Minister recognises how important it is, at this unprecedented time, for people to have the space to reflect and pray, to connect with their faith, and to be able to mourn for their loved ones.

“The PM is so grateful to people of all faiths and none, who have followed the social distancing guidelines, and in doing so, protected their communities.”