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Churches reopen doors: Justin Welby one of first to lead service

Churches across England and Northern Ireland have once again opened for public worship after lockdown restrictions were eased.

Places of worship have been prevented from hosting gatherings since the government introduced strict measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The easing, which was introduced on Saturday and also extended to pubs and restaurants, means churches can now hold services as long as their buildings are 'Covid secure'. It means no singing, no shared communion and no offerings as well as capacities of buildings being reduced to ensure social distancing.

Justin Welby was one of the first leaders to lead a service, taking Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral.

Those gathered were required to pre-book, with a small number of seats kept back for those who turned up on the day.

Beginning his sermon with humour, the Archbishop of Canterbury said: "There's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that we are gathered. The bad news is I have 12 weeks of sermons to catch up on and at ten minutes a sermon we will be finished at around five to one.

"For those of you who remember Star Trek, I'm tempted to begin by saying 'it's church Spock but not as we know it'.

"But it is time for the bells to ring, it is time for organs to play, it's time for holy places to be filled with prayer. It is time for a new start."

The majority of churches, especially larger ones have remained closed with online services still being offered.

It's expected many will begin a phased return over the coming weeks.

In Wales and Scotland, public worship is still prohibited.

On Saturday, a number of weddings took place for the first time in weeks. Each ceremony is only 30 guests who must have social distance. Singing is also advised against.

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