All remaining Covid-19 restrictions on places of worship have been lifted in England, but churches have been urged to act cautiously and responsibly as the virus still poses a threat.
Speaking in the House of Commons on 5 July, the new Health Secretary Sajid Javid said there will be ‘no restrictions on communal worship and singing’.
The wearing of face coverings in churches is no longer legally required, although individuals may exercise their own judgment as to whether they wish to continue wearing masks.
Rules that had limited the gathering, mixing, or mingling of people in churches have been removed, and the guidance against congregational singing has ended.
While the lifting of restrictions is widely welcomed, it also has the potential to cause division within and between churches, as people react differently to exiting from lockdown.
And despite the lifting of restrictions, the government may continue to publish guidance for places of worship.
For example, the government in England may follow the advice published in Scotland and Wales, where church congregations are only advised to sing under certain circumstances.
In Scotland and Wales, singing is only advised if transmission rates in the community are low, social distance is maintained, and people are wearing masks.
But at the time of this edition of ET going to press, no official guidance for places of worship in England has been published.
John Stevens, National Director of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches said it is important ‘that we’re able to rejoice together in the things that we are now able to do.
‘That’s a recognition of how important they are and how much it is that we have missed them over the period of lockdown.’
But he added that the corporate nature of church life means differences of opinion between church members cannot be resolved simply by allowing freedom of choice.
Writing on his personal blog he said, ‘The decisions that churches’ leaders make about what they recommend to their congregations will need to take account of their particular context and the sensitivities of their congregations.
‘Maintaining unity may well require a different response in different churches.’
The Evangelical Alliance – which has been calling for the lifting of restrictions on congregational singing – issued a statement saying, ‘Sing hallelujah!’