The Chief Rabbi has urged the UK Government to prioritise weddings and stone settings as it considers the gradual reopening of places of worship amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The intervention from Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis came on Friday during the first virtual meeting of a taskforce convened by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to work up a plan for the safe reopening of religious spaces.
Mirvis was among several faith leaders participating on the Places of Worship Taskforce just days after the Government said it hoped to reopen places of worship in Step 3 of its plan to lift restrictions, with 4 July the earliest mooted date.
Any reopening will be subject to further scientific advice, but ministers have recognised “how difficult it has been for people of faith to not be able to practice their religion with their community”.
Members of the taskforce agreed to work together to consider whether some forms of worship, such as individual prayer, might be permitted in places of worship before they fully reopen in step 3, where appropriate and safe.
“During this pandemic, significant spiritual moments such as Easter, Passover, Ramadan and Vaisakhi when families, friends and congregations traditionally gather together, have been celebrated at home,” said Jenrick.
“I realise how challenging being separated from their communities has been for people of faith. We will work together with all faith communities to understand how we can open places of worship as a priority, while continuing to prioritise safety.”
Faith Minister Lord Greenhalgh added that “practical issues such as the size of both physical buildings and congregations are significant”.
Today I held the first Taskforce on Reopening Places of Worship.
— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) May 15, 2020