In a bid to maintain social distancing measures and avoid contributing to the pandemic ravaging the entire world, Anglican churches are looking into options to keep their congregations safe, including the possibility of ticketed services.
At the moment, churches are looking at July at the earliest before they can reopen, as laid out in the Prime Minister's lockdown exit strategy earlier this week, which groups religious services in with the hospitality industry and other public places. That's step three of the exit plan, with step 2 in June seeing the phased reopening of shops. Apparently pushing churches into the step 3 category hasn't gone down too well with some religious leaders, with the Catholic Bishop having a moan about that, and demanding that churches be open for private prayer as soon as possible:
"The timing and the manner of the opening of churches touches profound sensitivities and spiritual needs. The Government’s document and statements fail to recognise this."
I guess telephone prayer support services and online services aren't good enough despite the Lord's omnipresence. Perhaps those tithes aren't looking as fat as they once were either, with the flock being furloughed, unemployed, and quarantined out of reach of the pressure to donate.
The Church of England has given the okay for services to be streamed and recorded from inside churches, which was off the table during lockdown. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, advised that churches be closed during this period to "set an example" during the government's stay at home order. Which is very sensible. One reverend decided to ignore this completely and has been buggering off to his church to record his services. In what sounds like an AITA post (in which he's definitely TA), Rev Will Pearson-Gee, rector of Buckingham parish church, said:
"My church is a massive Grade I-listed building with proper technology, and it’s far easier to record a service in it than in my home.
"I was recording in my living room but it was really stressful with three kids trying to do school work and piano practice, the dog barking, my wife, my mother-in-law who happened to be staying when the lockdown came, and my phone running out of storage. I thought, I don’t care – I’m going back into church.
"What bugged me was the diktat that came down [from bishops]. The church is far more concerned about health and safety than spirituality."
God forbid you have to share the same space as your wife and kids and listen to your boss. How can a man be expected to deal with his own family? Absolutely unreasonable. Also, it's not about his family doing his head in, it's actually about spirituality. He's so concerned about spirituality that he'd rather usher you to the pearly gates before your time than see you pray at home, where it's safe. Can't get more spiritual than swanning about in
the fiery pits of hell heaven, amirite?
Meanwhile, in another reality where spiritual leaders actually give a shit about their followers, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) have strongly advised that mosques and Islamic centres stay closed on Eid al-Fitr. We'll see if there's anyone as bloody stupid as Pearson-Gee flinging the doors to their mosque open when Ramadan ends next Saturday.
"Essentially, the UK government has not changed its guidance for places of worship in the new advice, and therefore, MINAB strongly advises that mosques should remain closed during the easing lockdown process. It is still not known when places of worship can be reopened, but this all depends on whether safe social distancing and best hygiene practices can be implemented.
"Currently, places of worship including our mosques are potentially at high risk of spreading coronavirus due to people coming together in mosques. Therefore, as stated in previous statements, MINAB reiterates that Mosques and Islamic centres must remain closed. It has been extremely painful and emotionally challenging for the Muslim community to close their mosques to the public and for congregation members to perform their prayers in private during the holy month of Ramadan."
The Catholic Church is already looking into post-lockdown plans that involve scrapping anything remotely germy, like hymn books, holy water, and removing pews to accommodate social distancing. [The Guardian]
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