UK Government Prolongs Inconsistencies Says Bishop

Country: United Kingdom

Date of incident: June 15, 2021

As for Covid restrictions, the UK government announced a four-week extension to England's lockdown regulations. Although the new extension allows churches to stay open, it restricts worship and singing until 19 July. Right Reverend Dame Sarah Mullaly, the Bishop of London, is now pressing the Parliament to reconsider the decision. Retired Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds, confronting the House of Lords sees inconsistencies being prolonged instead of actual Covid measures, since singing inside of Pubs is allowed.

"Thankfully church buildings remain open for public worship and prayer. While we look forward to restrictions on worship being lifted in the near future, I will continue to press for ongoing appraisal of choral and congregational singing", said the Bishop of London, after the English Government announced a four-week extension to the lockdown restrictions. 

Bishop Sarah Mullaly, who chairs the Church of England's Covid Recovery Group, states that the new restrictions concerning worship might be "a blow to many people". However, she stresses the importance to try and understand the measures set by the government and emphasises the necessity of Christians to love our neighbour. 

Although some restrictions concerning weddings and funerals are going to be lifted after June 21 Graham Nicholls, director of Affinity in Partnership with Gospel Churches, expressed his disappointment with the recent decision of restricting churches: "It's legitimate, as the Bishop of London has done so, to raise the question - is it really fair to churches to be quite so restrictive in terms of mask-wearing and not being able to sing? We want to be obedient but other things such as sporting fixtures are going ahead. And it just seems incongruous." 

In parliament, Minister Lord Bethell stated that it was "entirely right to beat up the minister" about the inconsistencies in the Covid-19 guidance issued by the Government. His statement follows after a health minister has been questioned over the coronavirus restrictions, as well as, the governments' decision to ease the lockdown only after July 19. 

According to Lord Bethell the government decided to implement that restriction based on one, the rapidly spreading Delta variation of the coronavirus first identified in India and second, to give people more time to get vaccinated. 

"Would the minister agree that the prolonging of the restrictions might be justified for certain reasons - I wouldn't demur from that - but the prolonging of inconsistencies is a serious impediment to public adherence to the rules? For example, you can sing in a pub but you can't sing in a church", said the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Rev Nick Baines, speaking in the House of Lords, adding that: "This is what brings the rules into disrepute."

UK's member of Hosue of Lords, Lord Bethell responded to Rev Baines speech that, "it is enormously frustrating to those who have a passion for singing." Nevertheless, he pointed out that the decision had been made with huge regrets and based on a huge amount of scientific analysis. Emphasizing "we have to fight this virus and we have to prevent people getting sick."

Minister Bethell denied any breakdown in the discipline over the rules implementing stating that he was "astounded by the British public and their adherence to voluntary guidelines and arrangements". 

Questioned by Lord Cormack as to "why is he allowed to go down to his local pub and sing Roll Out The Barrel but he can't go into his local church and sing Guide Me O, My Great Redeemer?" Lord Bethell stated that he does "accept the challenge" and that "anomalies do exist".

He justified the decision by saying: "It is unbelievably difficult to write guidelines that touch so many different parts of life. I wouldn't pretend for a moment that there is absolutely 100% consistency in everything that is done. These things are done in order to save lives and to protect people from infection. They are done with a heavy heart and they are done having looked at the scientific evidence and with an absolute sense of regret that we are I know letting down those who have a passion for singing and for religious worship."

Urging the reintroduction of choral singing in churches and cathedrals amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Conservative MP Michael Fabricant challenged his colleague arguing that “there’s a need for it to be restored”. He asked for assurance that things would actually get back to normal once July 19 has arrived. 

“The Church is having ongoing discussions with the Government about when choral and communal singing in churches and cathedrals can return and I’m very aware how frustrating the current situation is for choirs across the country”, stated Andrew Selous, the MP representing the Church Commissioners. He furthermore stated his hopes for the choral tradition to return as quickly as possible.


Symbolic Photo: by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash