Nearly 700 Protestant ministers have written to political leaders urging them not to shut churches again.
The ministers, from most major Protestant denominations in the UK, also warned of the negative consequences of another lockdown, adding they were “troubled by policies which prioritise bare existence at the expense of those things that give quality, meaning and purpose to life.”
The letter was sent to the Prime Minister, plus the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The clerics said they “entirely support proportionate measures to protect those most vulnerable” but also question “whether the UK Government and the devolved administrations have it in their power either to eliminate this virus or to suppress it for an indefinite period while we await a vaccine.”
They expressed particular concern about the effect shutting down public worship again would have on society, adding: “The supportive relationships that churches nurture between people are vital, and simply cannot be dispensed with again without significant harm.”
“And most of all, we know that regular gathering to worship God is essential for human life to be lived to the full,” they said.
The ministers pledged to follow rigorous hygiene and social distancing requirements, pointing out that church worship presents much lower risk of virus transmission than gyms, schools, pubs and restaurants.
“We therefore wish to state categorically that we must not be asked to suspend Christian worship again,” they said. “For us to do so would cause serious damage to our congregations, our service of the nation, and our duty as Christian ministers.”
The UK went into lockdown on March 23, while Catholic churches suspended public worship and locked entirely. Churches were allowed to reopen for private prayer in mid-June and resume public worship, with strict hygiene requirements, in early July.