Normal church services won't resume for some time, says Bishop of London

(Photo: Unsplash/Yulia Chinato)

It may be 2021 before normal services are resumed across the Church of England, the Bishop of London has said.

Public worship has been suspended at Church of England churches since the start of the lockdown due to social distancing measures. 

Bishop Sarah Mullally told the BBC that the pandemic would continue to require significant changes to key aspects of Christian worship "for some time". 

What those changes look like will vary depending on region, she said, before adding that Holy Communion and singing during service were among the "very challenging questions" for the Church.

"I don't envisage, even up to the end of the year, we will be back to our normal services," she said. 

"We'll have some churches doing things differently. And of course, this approach will depend on the part of the country you are in. Being in Devon is very different to being in the centre of London. So we need to approach this based on our local circumstances.

"There are some very challenging questions that we'll have to face, not least about singing and about the receiving of Holy Communion. So the future will look different.

"But we want to continue to support people in their spiritual journey with their faith." 

Even once church buildings are able to re-open, social distancing and hygiene measures will continue to be observed.

"When we open our church buildings, we will still have to ensure physical distancing," she explained.

"We'll have to make sure people can wash their hands on the way in and on the way out. We are likely not to be able to use hymn books or service sheets or sing."

With a spike in the number of people attending services online during the lockdown, Bishop Mullally said the Church had a challenge on its hands to answer the question of why more people access services online than come to physical churches.

"How do we enable them to enter into our community, to be part of our community in church?" she said.