The First Minister’s announcement today that communal worship for up to 50 people is set to re-start from 26 March has been welcomed by the Scottish Episcopal Church.
The Scottish Government had indicated previously that communal worship would be permitted from 5 April, with the possibility that the date could be brought forward by a few days to accommodate Passover and Easter. It was also expected, at that stage, that worship would be limited to 20 people.
The earlier than anticipated opening date means that churches can now make a schedule for services during Holy Week, and where social distancing allows, can plan for a greater number of worshippers than previously expected.
Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, told the Scottish Parliament: “I can confirm that, assuming no deterioration in the situation with the virus between now and then, we intend to allow communal worship to restart from Friday 26 March. This is in time for Passover, Easter, Ramadan and Vaisakhi.
“In addition, the limit on attendance at communal services will be increased from 20, which was the limit in place before lockdown, to 50 – assuming of course that a place of worship is spacious enough to accommodate that many people with 2 metre physical distancing.
“I know that the restrictions on communal worship have been difficult for many people, despite the exceptional efforts made by faith groups to reach out to their communities.
“This change is a proportionate step, which we believe can be achieved relatively safely, and which will hopefully enable more people to draw strength, comfort and inspiration from acts of collective worship.”
The Most Rev Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: “I am delighted with the news today that we will be able to open our churches in time for Easter. I thank the First Minister for her announcement and in particular for her recognition of the place of faith within Scotland.
“We now hope to be able to move forward, while remembering that not everyone will be able to be in church despite this re-opening for various reasons, and that is why we will continue to provide online worship for those who will not be able to return.”
The Advisory Group of the Scottish Episcopal Church will meet later this week, after which it will issue further guidance on the re-opening of churches for worship.