England's congregations can sing together again - but only outdoors

(Photo: Unsplash/Tyler Callahan)

The rules around congregational have been relaxed as of Palm Sunday to allow churches to sing together outside.

The changes have come into effect as the Government moves to ease lockdown restrictions, with gatherings of up to six people or two full households in parks and back gardens permitted from Monday.

Guidance on churches has been changed on the Government website to state that congregations can sing together in the grounds of the church and with social distancing in place. 

"When communal worship takes place outdoors, the congregation may join in with singing, and should follow the principles set out in the performing arts guidance," the guidance reads.

"This includes ensuring that congregation members follow social distancing rules. Social contact limits apply, meaning that households, support bubbles or groups of 2 must not mingle.

"Communal singing in other public open spaces should not take place."

For now, singing indoors is restricted to "a single small group of singers" who are "allowed to perform, or rehearse for performance, only where essential to an act of communal worship".

"This should be limited to as few singers as possible, with social distancing being maintained at all times. Communal singing should not take place."

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick tweeted that he was "pleased to have clarified guidance on choirs ahead of Easter services".

Christian MP Sir Edward Leigh thanked the Government "for listening and updating the guidance to clarify that choirs will be able to sing at Easter".

"This is the most important festival of the Christian year and many are looking forward to joining in communal worship with choirs." 

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, also expressed thanks for the "clarity" on singing as Christians mark Holy Week and Easter.

"This will allow churches and cathedrals to plan their worship to help online and in-person congregations to mark the journey of the passion and resurrection – a journey of hope, while making local arrangements to ensure transmission risk is minimised," she said.