Christian organisations and local clergy in Kingston are concerned that that the new lockdown ban on communal worship could damage mental health and well-being, especially of the most vulnerable.
England’s four-week lockdown, which started on Thursday November 5, will see most religious services suspended, with the exception of funerals.
Father Michael Lovell, parish priest of St Raphael’s Church and the Roman Catholic chaplain to Kingston University, said: “It’s extraordinary that Boris Johnson did not mention any faith issues at all in his conference this Saturday [October 31].
“As though faith didn’t matter and it’s on the periphery of our society. For many people exercising faith is important for mental stability.
“Our great faith deserves more consideration from this Government.”
‘Immoral blanket decision’
Lydia Marcou, a member of the congregation of St George’s Greek Orthodox Church in Kingston, said: “It’s unbelievable, the church is already doing its fair share, you can’t even enter without submitting your contact details.
“It’s immoral to make such a blanket decision on behalf of the people. Let people choose and make their spiritual priorities.”
Father Irenei, parish priest of the Russian Cathedral of the Formation of the Mother of God and the Royal Martyrs, Chiswick, said: “Our church complied with all the mandates.
“These new restrictions are crushing for our community. If religious service among the brethren does not count as ‘essential’ in the government’s eyes, what does then?
“It’s high time the Government treated our spiritual needs with discretion.”
While churches will retain the right to accommodate individual prayers and carry out pre-arranged rites, the lack of communal worship could be detrimental to spiritual growth according to Irenei.
Unite with open letter to Government
Religious organisations in England wrote the Government an open letter criticising the plans to stop public worship during the lockdown.
The new restrictions are due to last until December 2 but could be extended further, according to Michael Gove, minister for the Cabinet Office.
In a joint statement, Cardinal Vincent Nichols President and Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of the Catholic Church’s Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said that the Government’s strategy could undermine social cohesion and sever the bonds of congregations, where many people seek solace.
“Whilst we understand the many difficult decisions facing the Government, we have not yet seen any evidence whatsoever that would make the banning of communal worship, with all its human costs, a productive part of combatting the virus.
“We ask the Government to produce this evidence that justifies the cessation of acts of public worship,” the statement said.
Some 885 faith leaders of various denominations signed an open letter urging the government to reverse the decision.
“We must not be asked to suspend Christian worship again,” the letter said.