Pastors weigh up whether to open or close in England's latest lockdown

(Photo: Facebook/Church of England)

Some church leaders have made the decision to close their doors during England's third national lockdown, while others are staying open.

Places of worship are permitted to open for public worship during the lockdown, but Tuesday night's announcement sparked debate among Christians on social media as to whether it is wise to gather in person at this time.

St Paul's Cathedral announced on Tuesday that it would be opening its doors daily for private prayer and led worship but only between the hours of 12pm and 3:30pm. 

Numbers will be limited due to social distancing and a one way system will be in place.

Bryony Taylor, Rector of Barlborough & Clowne in Derbyshire, said she had made the decision to close her church.

"Everyone was relieved," she said.

"I had people on rotas feeling they 'ought' to come because we were open but who didn't feel safe." 

She echoed calls from some Anglicans who felt that leaders in the Church of England should have told churches to close. 

"I feel a national statement should be made. Going to communal worship is not 'staying at home'," she said.

David Stout, the Church of England's regional giving adviser for the north, said he believed churches should close. 

"I really hope church leaders feel empowered to close their church buildings," he tweeted.

"To stay open and draw people in, is not, in the most part, a healthy thing to do imo. Our churches are important in helping loneliness etc, but there are other ways of being that service."

Cardinal Vincent Nichols was one of the strongest voices last night in welcoming the decision to permit churches to open.

"The regular practice of our faith in God is a source of personal resilience & dedicated service of those in need, both vital in these difficult times," he said.

"I am glad no measures have been introduced to obstruct or curtail this essential source of energy for the common good."

Church planter Dai Hankey said he was concerned about the "emotional welfare" of church leaders "taking hits whatever they decide".

"Regarding churches deciding to continue to gather during lockdown (or not): Not all decisions to close are cowardly + liberal. Not all decisions to gather are loveless + reckless," he said.