The director of Affinity – a network of about 1,200 churches and Christian agencies across the UK – has written to the government to ask for lockdown restrictions to be relaxed.
Graham Nicholls sent the letter to Lord Greenhalgh who is the government minister responsible for regulations regarding churches meeting in the post-lockdown period.
The letter stated, ‘the recent imposition of regulations regarding face coverings is hard to bear, given the careful steps we have all already taken to ensure hygiene protocols and two-metre social distancing.
‘Having become used to these restrictions, it is demoralising to now have to also wear masks, especially as it is an unpleasant experience for the duration of a church service, and as you know, the efficacy of face coverings is unproven.
‘It is also difficult to continue to support the two-metre distancing limitations, given the low rates of infections, hospital admissions and deaths, which are statistically negligible at present.
‘We also note that there are moves afoot to allow theatres and sporting venues to admit crowds in much less controlled settings.’
The letter stated, ‘Attending a Christian place of worship is not a leisure activity, nor can church buildings be placed on a par with entertainment venues when it comes to prioritising a return to some semblance of normality.’
The letter asks the government to consider a relaxation of ‘the guidance/law on face coverings so that, at most, they are mandated only for entry and exit, not for when people are seated.’
It also requested ‘flexibility on social distancing by either removing it completely, or allowing for one metre only in churches if masks are worn.’
The letter from Graham Nicholls to Lord Greenhalgh said, ‘I want to continue to assure you that our members are taking great care to follow the government guidance for places of worship and as good citizens we will continue to do so. We are grateful for being allowed to meet physically since July.
‘However, I want to again make you aware that it is increasingly difficult to maintain support for some of these measures and it is severely curtailing our ability to meet together as whole churches.’
Graham Nicholls has been director of Affinity since 2016 and is also pastor of Christ Church Haywards Heath in West Sussex.