Changes to worship and prayers as congregations return in Scotland

Congregations of all faiths are facing a “new normal” as they return to communal worship amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Services and prayer can take place in sacred spaces once again from today, but physical distancing must be adhered to and there will also be restrictions on numbers, singing and chanting.

The changes are part of phase three of Scotland’s route map out of lockdown and come on the same day Scots can eat and drink inside pubs and restaurants and get a haircut for the first time since March.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the latest moves are “the biggest step so far” in the lifting of restrictions and urged caution to reduced the chances of spreading Covid-19.

Places of worship are now able to re-open for congregational services, communal prayer and contemplation with physical distancing, limited numbers and no sharing of books or other communal items

Religious venues across Scotland will now be able to welcome a maximum of 50 worshippers at any one time, regardless of the size of the premises.

However, the number of guests at weddings and funerals is capped at 20.

And Scottish Government guidance states all attendees must provide their contact details.

This is the first time places of worship have been able to open their doors for public services and communal prayer since lockdown restrictions were put in place.

The latest guidance allows communal worship for the first time since lockdown began in March, but numbers are capped at 50 regardless of venue size

But the new rules will affect people of all faiths, with singing, chanting and wind instruments still prohibited.

Sharing prayer books, mats or any other communal items must also be avoided.

It is the responsibility of faith leaders to ensure any rites and rituals are safe for those taking part, according to the guidance.

Aileen Campbell, Scotland’s communities secretary, said: “I know it has been very difficult for our faith communities to be unable to come together in their places of worship during such challenging times.

“This was, of course, necessary due to the pandemic and I would like to thank everyone for their understanding and patience.

“The updated guidance reflects the evolving scientific and health advice and has been developed in consultation with leaders and representatives of Scotland’s faith and belief communities.”

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