Churches to re-open for public worship on 4 July

(Photo: Pexels/Brett Sayles)

The Government has confirmed that churches in England can resume public worship from 4 July. 

The long-awaited announcement came from Boris Johnson in the Commons on Tuesday. 

The re-opening of churches covers services as well as weddings up to a maximum of 30 people, subject to social distancing measures. 

Churches in England have already been able to open for private prayer since 13 June.

Mr Johnson said he was "delighted" places of worship could finally re-open. 

"I know that many have mourned the closure of places of worship, and this year Easter, Passover and Eid all occurred during the lockdown," he said. 

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who leads the Church of England's Recovery Group, welcomed the Prime Minister's announcement. 

"The last three months have been an extraordinary time - the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years," she said.

"There will be real joy as we begin to come together again – if even at a physical distance – but I also know that many will be understandably cautious at this news." 

She went on to say that not all churches would be able to re-open as early as 4 July.

"We will not be returning to normality overnight - this is the next step on a journey," she said.

"We've been planning carefully, making detailed advice available for parishes to enable them to prepare to hold services when it is safe and practical to do so.

"It is important to say that the change in Government guidance is permissive, not prescriptive." 

She added that with the country coming out of lockdown, the Church had a role to play in offering spiritual support to those who have suffered as a result of illness and financial hardship. 

"This has been an incredibly difficult time for the whole country, especially for those who have been ill, who have suffered financial hardship, the loss of livelihoods and indeed, for many, those they love. We know that is not over and the Church has a task ahead to bring consolation and hope," she said. 

"Churches and cathedrals have risen to the recent challenges, finding new ways of meeting for worship, of serving our neighbours, and of reaching new people with the love of God.

"The challenge before us now is to take the next steps carefully and safely, without forgetting all that we've discovered about God and ourselves on the way."

The Methodist Church has said it is planning to release a special service soon to celebrate the return to public worship.