The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, The Most Rev Mark Strange, makes the following statement on behalf of the College of Bishops:
“This weekend we will re-open church buildings to welcome some of our congregations back to in-person worship for the first time in almost three months.
“Many of those in our congregations will be aware that legal ruling has been delivered this week on the closure of churches during lockdown under Scottish Government direction, and the College of Bishops has reflected on the outcome of a Judicial Review which has deemed that forced closure was unlawful.
“Clearly our hope and our prayer is that in the foreseeable future we will all be free to worship in church together, but we as a denomination we also recognise that the worship that has been offered during the lockdown has been real. There are elements of worship we have been unable to deliver and that has been a struggle for many, but our regular commitment to worship has not wavered.
We cannot accept that this Sunday, those who can reach a church building are worshipping while those still unable to mix with others, but who join them online, are not worshipping.
“These are some positive outcomes from our period of lockdown: the number of people gathering for the daily prayer online, the growth in accessibility of worship for those who are housebound and those who may never be able to attend a church again, and the development of ways of participation in worship for people who struggle in large groups.
“We disagree with the claim made during Judicial Review that these commitments do not represent worship. Throughout lockdown, people have worshipped and continue to worship online. We cannot accept that this Sunday, those who can reach a church building are worshipping while those still unable to mix with others, but who join them online, are not worshipping.
“We closed our church buildings out of love and concern for those in our communities. We followed the advice of the health officials and we have regularly negotiated with the Scottish Government.
“We will continue to offer online worship as we slowly reopen our church buildings. We do this not as a second-best option but as a loving response which addresses and includes the well-being and safety of those we are called to serve, the people of our communities.”