The Church of England is cutting down weddings to the bare legal minimum, with all unecessary contact stripped out of the service, as the state church works to meet the obligations of social distancing mandated by the UK government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The new guidelines come days after the Church of England said that while the majority of public worship, including routine services and masses, would be suspended weddings and funerals could still go ahead. Now, the established church of England says weddings can go ahead, but only with the bare minimum of participants required to make it legal.
Now, a priest to officiate and record the wedding in the register and two witnesses need to attend to make the ceremony legal, but need to be socially isolated from the bride and groom, who do not need to isolate from one another. To help the isolated couple keep their distance from the others, parts of the ceremony which are not legally required including the priest touching the rings and holding the hands of the couple will no longer take place, reports The Daily Mail.
The newspaper reports the remarks of the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker who said of the change: “Couples and parents, friends and families will have been planning for months, even years for their special moment, whether a wedding or a christening. Now it can go ahead – but with only the minimum required in attendance. You may need to cancel or postpone.
“Whatever decision is made, God’s love and blessing will still surround all those who would have been there that day.”
The York Press reported Tuesday on a joint letter of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the two most senior churchmen in the country as they launched new guidance for ending almost all services for the duration of coronavirus. They wrote: “This is a defining moment for the Church of England. Are we truly a church for all, or just the church for ourselves?
“We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.”
Churches will step up live streaming efforts in the coming week, to share worship with the public even though services could not be opened to the public. In many cases churches will remain open for private worship, but congregants would not be permitted to gather together.