England’s faith leaders have united in calling on the UK government to permit public worship during the forthcoming lockdown in England, insisting that such worship is “essential.”
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London, along with the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and other faith leaders raise “our profound concerns at the forthcoming restriction measures to be introduced in England on Thursday 5th November 2020.”
While the bishops acknowledge that the country faces “significant challenges” requiring new measures in response, they “strongly disagree with the decision to suspend public worship during this time,” the letter states.
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“We have had reaffirmed, through the bitter experience of the last six months, the critical role that faith plays in moments of tremendous crisis, and we believe public worship is essential,” they declare.
“We set out below why we believe it is essential, and we ask you to allow public worship, when fully compliant with the existing covid-19 secure guidance, to continue,” the letter reads.
The faith leaders first explain how they have carefully complied with past measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus and that they have been part of the solution, not part of the problem.
“We have demonstrated, by our action, that places of worship and public worship can be made safe from Covid transmission,” they state. “Given the significant work we have already done, we consider there to be, now, no scientific justification for the wholesale suspension of public worship.”
More importantly, the bishops and other faith leaders insist that when dividing activities into essential and non-essential, public worship of God falls firmly in the first group.
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Common worship is “constitutive of our identity, and essential for our self-understanding,” the letter asserts. “Without the worshipping community, our social action and support cannot be energised and sustained indefinitely.
“Our commitment to care for others comes directly from our faith, which must be sustained and strengthened by our meeting together in common worship,” they add. “Worshipping together is core to our identity and an essential aspect of sustaining our mission and our activity.”
“Common worship is also necessary to sustain the health and wellbeing of faith community members engaged in caring for others whether paid or voluntary,” they declare.
The benefits of public worship are “scientifically well attested” and it “enables and sustains people of faith in contributing to the service and health of our nation,” they continue.
Public Worship is also necessary for social cohesion and connectedness, they add, which “has been attested to in papers from Government’s own Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies.”
“The health benefits of attending worship are well known, and the burden of psychological and physical ill-health from isolation and during the pandemic are increasingly well understood,” the leaders declare.
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“In summary, the scientific evidence shows that social solidarity and connectedness are key to people maintaining motivation to comply with COVID secure measures and to maintain good mental health,” the bishops and other faith leaders state.
Moreover, “there is no scientific rationale for suspension of Public Worship where it is compliant with the guidance that we have worked jointly with government to establish.”
We call on government to “enable us to continue to worship safely, as part of the essential fabric of the nation,” they conclude.