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Churches to reopen for services from 4th July in England and weddings allowed 30 people

Boris Johnson has announced that churches will be allowed to reopen for services and weddings from 4th July.

The PM made the statement in the House of Commons as he announced the reopening of pubs, restaurants and hairdressers.

He said: "I know that many have mourned the closure of places of worship. And this year Easter Passover and Eid all occurred during the lockdown. So, I'm delighted that places of worship will be able to re-open for prayer and services, including weddings, with a maximum of 30 people, all subject to social distancing."

Thirty people are allowed at weddings, with numbers at services expected to be dependent on building size.

Mr Johnson also reduced the social distancing rule from two metres to "one metre plus" and made social contact advice "guidance" rather than legislation, allowing people from two households of any size to meet up indoors and outdoors from 4th July.

Other activities opening in line with churches include outdoor gyms, playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs and community centres.

Mr Johnson added: "We will also work with the arts industry on specific guidance to enable choirs, orchestras and theatres to resume live performances as soon as possible."

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who leads the Church of England's Recovery Group, responded to the announcement on churches, saying: "I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement today that we will soon be able to begin to meet and worship together in our church buildings again. The last three months have been an extraordinary time - the first period without public worship and the sacraments in England in more than 800 years. There will be a 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.

"There will still be restrictions and we must all still do everything we can to limit the spread of the virus to protect each other, especially the most vulnerable. The online services and dial-in worship offerings we have become used to will continue."

The Church of England will be giving updated specific guidance on weddings, singing and music in the coming days.

Danny Webster, a spokesperson for the UK Evangelical Alliance, has welcomed the news but told Premier there are still many unanswered questions. 

"Singing has been raised often as a problematic activity as something that may well lead to the virus spreading more easily. There's been a suggestion that singing may be advised against, if not prohibited, so that will be something that churches will have to tackle and work out how they navigate that."

However, he said this announcement comes as a relief for many church leaders. 

"I expect a wide number of churches will start to put plans in place now that they know what they can prepare for. Many won't necessarily go back to full services straightaway. That may just not be possible for many churches with the distancing requirements that are in place.

"But it might be an opportunity for churches to hold prayer meetings in their buildings, and to hold other one-off occasions. I know a lot of churches will be planning over the next couple of months how they can increase their services to start to help people gather together once again."

Churches in all parts of the UK are already allowed to open for individual prayer, with services allowed from 29th June in Northern Ireland but there is no update for services in Scotland or Wales. 

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