More than 700 church leaders have signed an open letter to the governments of all four UK nations, urging them not to ask churches to stop services again.
By the start of October, national and even international newspapers had picked up the story, interviewing some of the signatories and asking why it mattered to them to keep churches open.
The Sunday Times interviewed Revd Dr Matthew Roberts in their story ‘Churches vow to stay open this time’, while Kay Burley of Sky News spoke with Revd Dr Ian Paul.
According to Paul Huxley, writing on the Christian Concern website, ‘It was wonderful to see so many leaders, from different types of churches, speak of the broader issues raised by Covid lockdown policies: the importance of the Church, the many other health risks being caused, the impact on the poorest and the hope of everlasting life in Jesus.
‘Since then, the coverage of this letter also provided interesting opportunities for Christians to once again talk about the Church’s response to Covid-19 and where we should go from here.’
Mr Huxley thanked Revd Paul for ‘taking this opportunity to speak in a distinctively Christian way about the challenges our society actually faces’ but called on the UK church to do more.
He said, ‘Society needs the Church. It needs a healthy Church that truly follows God, that speaks and acts in obedience to Jesus and that realises it’s not a mere club.’
However, he warned churches needed to have a stronger response to Covid-19, claiming too much criticism can fairly be levelled at churches for having a ‘weak’ response, ‘hidden away in Zoom meetings rather than bolding proclaiming the hope of Christ or serving their communities’.
He said it is important to remain conscientious and to follow government guidelines – a testimony in itself. But the church must also not become so ‘hyper-conscientious’ that it denies corporate worship altogether, not projecting the gospel message to the world.
His comments followed those made in September by Affinity, a network of 1,200 churches and Christian agencies across the UK, which called on Lord Greenhalgh – the government minister responsible for regulations regarding church meetings – to relax some of the more restrictive rules.
As reported by Evangelical Times, Affinity’s 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.’