Church closures are a 'mistake' - Michael Nazir-Ali

Church of England churches are closed because of the lockdown(Photo: Pexels/Brett Sayles)

Churches should be allowed to open their doors for prayer this Easter, the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali has said. 

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York suspended public worship across Church of England churches and later told them to shutter completely, including for private prayer, after Britain went into lockdown due to coronavirus. 

Writing on his website, Bishop Nazir-Ali said it was "such a pity" that churches were not open for prayer and that with Easter this weekend, "now is the time to undo this mistake". 

"Going to church is not the same as going to a pub or a football match. Provided that safe distancing is possible and is maintained, this is exactly the time when people will feel the need to go in and be quiet and, perchance, to pray for themselves or a loved one or even the situation as a whole," he said.

"Why is this any more dangerous than shopping in a supermarket or travelling on the London Underground?"

He also suggested that traditional Good Friday processions should have been allowed to take place as usual. 

"This could easily be done while maintaining safe distancing and could also be limited in terms of numbers but a procession, such as this, moving through our streets would be sign of cleansing and healing and of suffering producing hope," he wrote.

"Let us have this one indulgence, with whatever safeguards you deem necessary, and, I am sure, the results will not be negative for our communities." 

There are no plans from the Archbishops to ease the rules for Easter and the Diocese of London actually tightened its guidance this week to stop clergy living in homes directly adjoining their churches from going into their buildings for private prayer or to livestream services.

As has been custom for the last few weeks, the Church of England will be broadcasting a national service online on Sunday. 

This time round, for Easter Sunday, the service will be led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and be available via BBC Radio 4 and the Church of England's Facebook page and website from 9am.