The new rules for weddings and places of worship in England

Wedding services involving up to 30 people will be permitted in England as part of plans to reopen places of worship under the easing of lockdown rules announced by the Prime Minister.

Speaking to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Boris Johnson 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 am delighted that places of worship will be able to reopen for prayer and services, including weddings, with a maximum of 30 people, all subject to social distancing.”

The announcement was part of wider plans to relax restrictions, including for parts of the hospitality and leisure industry, from July 4.

The Government is expected to issue detailed guidance on how the easing of current rules could work in practice.

It is understood that guidance will include the extent to which singing is allowed in services, while it is also expected to cover limitations around the use of hospitality venues.

The guidance is also expected to apply to “life-cycle events” such as baptisms and bar mitzvahs.

Representatives of different faiths welcomed the news, with a note of caution sounded over preventing a second spike in coronavirus cases.

The Church of England welcomed the announcement and said updated advice for couples getting married will be published on its website this week.

The Church said its Recovery Group will also issue advice on subjects including singing and music, for which a review by Public Health England is currently in progress.

Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, who leads the Recovery Group, said: “There will be 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.”

She warned that not all church buildings will be ready to hold regular services from July 4 and restrictions will still be in place to control the spread of coronavirus.

Online services and “dial-in worship” will continue.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, also welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement.

He said: “As Catholics we now look forward to being able to celebrate Mass together again from July 4.

“We have waited with patience and longing for this moment, understanding the importance of protecting the health of people in our society.

“Now we are full of anticipation that we will be able again to take part together in the Eucharist, which lies at the centre of our faith.”

He emphasised it will be important to continue to abide by Government guidance on social distancing, with the Catholic Church due to send out its own guidance to dioceses and parishes to enable Mass to be held securely.

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, welcomed the Government’s announcement but urged a cautious approach.

She said her organisation had worked with different religious denominations “to ensure the right balance between preservation of life and maintenance and restarting of religious customs”.

She said weddings were “a particular concern in the Orthodox and Strictly Orthodox communities”.

Ms van der Zyl added: “However, on the day that we reveal that the total number of deaths in the Jewish community has reached 500, we would urge people to proceed with caution and stick within the Government’s guidelines to ensure there is no second spike in cases.”

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) urged communities to “take all practical precautions” before returning to mosques, and said it had produced a nine-step guide to reopening them safely.

Secretary general Harun Khan said: “The guidance urges mosque leaders to exercise caution when preparing for reopening, as well as reminding individual Muslim community members of the importance of deciding for themselves whether it is safer for them to remain home to pray and attend online services, rather than being physically present in the mosque.”

Mr Khan said not all mosques will be ready to open for worship from July 4, with practical precautions needing to be put in place and trialled first.

He called on more detailed guidance from the Government, including for supplementary faith schools such as madrasas.

The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) said reopening for prayers would be “a tremendously positive” step but also urged caution.

It said mosques should conduct risk assessments and warned religious activities will “not be the same as before” due to distancing challenges.

Bhai Narinderjit Singh, general secretary of the Sikh Federation UK, welcomed plans for the resumption of services but said limiting the numbers of people at weddings was “far too simplistic and makes no sense” and would leave families “furious”.

Mr Singh said: “In Gravesend Gurdwara where I volunteer, each of our three halls can safely accommodate much larger numbers.

“The main hall can hold 100 with social distancing of 2m. This will increase if social distancing is reduced to 1m and families can sit together.”

The Federation has been critical of previous guidance advising against singing and having food, elements which form part of Sikh worship.

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