Worshippers should feel ‘no compulsion’ to attend church over Christmas

Tom Pilgrim, PA
·2-min read

Clergy and people who are shielding should feel “no compulsion” to attend church over the Christmas period, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, in a joint statement with the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Dame Sarah Mullally – who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, urged those living in the newly announced Tier 4 areas to be “exceptionally careful”.

Their comments come after the Prime Minister curtailed the planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas in England and placed London and the east and southeast of the country in a new top tier of coronavirus measures.

Addressing the public from Downing Street on Saturday, Boris Johnson said that, unlike November’s lockdown, communal worship can continue in Tier 4 areas.

Mr Welby and Dame Sarah said the new restrictions were a “bitter blow”.

“For many people, it will mean spending Christmas Day alone,” they added.

“None of us has experienced a situation quite like it in our lifetimes.

“We note the rise in infections and hospitalisations with real concern.

“But we also know that there is real hope. We are nearer the end of this than the beginning, with a vaccine already being made available and treatments improving.”

They said the arrival of new restrictions for many meant “we must commit ourselves more than ever to looking out for those who are alone, to caring for those in need and to praying for our nation and world”.

Their statement continued: “We know that public worship – both in person and through remote means – has brought comfort, hope and inspiration to so many.

“So we are grateful that, even in Tier 4, church buildings can be open this Christmas.

“But I urge everyone to take precautions and, especially for those in Tier 4, to be exceptionally careful.

“Even though attending public worship is permitted, many people may feel it is currently better they do not do so.

“Clergy and others who are shielding should certainly feel no compulsion.”