Posted: 24.06.20 at 17:18 by Nick Hudson
ANGLICAN churches in Bedworth are to delay reopening their doors for normal services until August to give the area’s Covid-19 hotspot status time to cool.
The town’s Church of England rector says it is imperative to “act responsibly” at the time when the borough has been experiencing a new spike in confirmed cases which has seen it hit the 500 mark for people testing positive to the virus.
Bedworth and neighbouring Nuneaton remain in the danger zone of high-end incidences in terms of percentage of its population after reaching number one for the ‘worst’ set of figures in the country – with George Eliot Hospital forced into strict remedial action after announcing seven deaths in a five-day period.
Today health leaders are calling for an urgent review to ensure the UK is properly prepared as “available evidence indicates that local flare ups are increasingly likely and a second wave a real risk” with 51 more deaths being reported across the nations in the last 24 hours.
The Rev Dave Poultney, who has officiated at a number of Covid funerals in his parish since the middle of March, said it was clear dealing with Boris Johnson’s announcement to do away with the majority of lockdown measures was “very difficult” for people to work through.
He told Nub News: “It’s very hard for human beings to keep their social distance and Christians are no different in that regard.
“In the moment of excitement they want to reach out and shake a hand, or hug somebody.
“As a church we must be aware of this.”
Yesterday’s news from the Prime Minister to reopen places of worship was part of wider plans to relax restrictions, including for parts of the hospitality and leisure industry, from July 4.
The Rev Poultney explained that attending church was not the same as going to a pub or restaurant, and the “one advantage is there is no commercial pressure on us”.
But he stressed that he had decided to delay opening All Saints in the town centre and St Andrew’s in Smorrall Lane – being “acutely aware of the spike in local coronavirus cases in Bedworth and Nuneaton”, and adding: “The last thing we want to do is exacerbate what is already a difficult situation.
“I am mindful we have some elderly church members and I have conducted a number of funerals of Covid-19 victims from the Bedworth parish.”
Rather than a proverbial race up the church aisles on July 4, the Bedworth parish plans a staggered return to what will be a ‘new norm’ for many religions across the UK.
All Saints will be open for private prayer from Monday, July 6 with the first funeral being conducted in the church since the March 23 lockdown scheduled for Friday, July 10.
Normal church services, however, will not resume until the beginning of August, said the Rev Poultney.
Wedding services involving up to 30 people will now be permitted in England as part of lockdown easing plans.
But there is no issue with that at All Saints and St Andrew’s as all the planned marriages have been moved into next year.
“However, if any of those couples want to bring them forward – in the light of the new arrangements – I am happy to discuss it with them,” he added.
On those of his flock who have been shielding, the Rev Poultney had a special message.
He said: “I am concerned about the very vulnerable among our church members – they are the ones who could be tempted to return sooner.
“They have not been out to see friends, and will be suffering from loneliness and isolation.
“But we want to act responsibly and not allow them back earlier than they should.”
On the risk of breaking social distancing which can lead to reinfection and second waves, the rector was very clear.
He told Nub News: “We have been warned many times and we need to do our part in that regard.”
The Church of England has been taking its lead from the Government on matters of safety and social distancing measures.
The Bishop of London Sarah Mullally interrupts the guidelines and customises them for every parish.
The Church said its Recovery Group will also issue advice on subjects including singing and music, for which a review by Public Health England is currently in progress.
The Right Rev Mullally, who leads the Recovery Group, 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.
"We will not be returning to normality overnight, this is the next step on a journey.
"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 warned that not all church buildings will be ready to hold regular services from July 4 and restrictions will still be in place to control the spread of coronavirus, which will see online services and "dial-in worship" continuing.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, also welcomed the Prime Minister's statement.
He said: "As Catholics we now look forward to being able to celebrate Mass together again from July 4.”
He emphasised it will be important to continue to abide by Government guidance on social distancing, with the Catholic Church due to send out its own guidance to dioceses and parishes to enable mass to be held securely.