Several local councils in England wrote to churches last month urging them to close during the lockdown, even though the law allows them to remain open.
When the lockdown in England was announced, the Prime Minister made it clear that people could leave their homes for ‘communal worship’ at a church.
But a letter sent to places of worship in Ealing, signed by council leader Julian Bell, stated, ‘Given this very worrying situation and the urgent need to reduce infection rates and protect the NHS, I am urging all places of worship to voluntarily agree to go beyond the legal restrictions imposed by the government.
‘Acts of communal worship remain legal, but I am asking that Ealing’s places of worship make the voluntary step to go further and close for communal worship and individual prayer.’
Similar letters were received by churches in Essex, Lancashire, and Bath. The actions of the local councils drew criticism from Christian Concern.
Pastor Ade Omooba (MBE), co-founder of Christian Concern, said it was ‘inappropriate for councils to put pressure on churches to stop meeting’.
He added, ‘Churches throughout the UK have demonstrated their responsibility, and indeed their safety, throughout the pandemic. It is right that church leaders continue to be trusted to decide if and how to meet.’