"It means the world" - Leeds faith leaders take a cautious but welcome approach to lockdown lift on worship

Places of worship across Leeds are taking a cautious approach to reopening their doors to the public despite being given the government green light.

Saturday, 11th July 2020, 6:00 am

For months churches, chapels, mosques, temples, synagogues and other public places of worship have been forced to close to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

However, it cut off members of communities who are at the heart of congregations - which for many provided companionship and contact as well as a place to practice faith.

While some of the region's larger cathedrals - such as York Minster - welcomed back a public congregation last weekend, many local faith communities are making a gradual return to their usual weekly diaries.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Langar at the Chapeltown Road Gurdwara in Leeds before lockdown.

Revd Canon Sam Corley, Rector of Leeds, said it would be too logistically difficult to implement social distancing at Leeds Minster, even though it is a large building, because of how it is configured and the community it serves.

Guidance from the Church of England was that places could reopen, not that they must reopen.

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: "We are not likely to be running services properly until September because, while the buildings are hugely significant to us as places of worship, the challenge is keeping people safe at the same time.

"Part of the problem with many churches who have pews, and particularly ours that face in different directions, it is hard to distance people, track and trace is not viable and where we are, we don't know everyone and the demographic is vulnerable."

Leeds Minster.

Instead, the doors are open from 10am to noon on Sunday for parishioners to go and pray alone in one specific chapel that has been allocated. Even though it is nowhere near the usual church diary, Rev Corley added that regular church-goers had found comfort in being at least able to pray in the church building.

He said: "It is a place that has been prayed in for generations. It is a special place, dedicated for a specific purpose. People have spoken about how much they appreciate being in a place where you can almost feel the presence of those prayers. Particularly for people that have a long connection and they were married here or buried husbands or wives, it means the world to be able to reconnect with those places."

Read More

Read More
Read More: How Leeds mourned during lockdown

The Sikh Temple on Chapeltown Road would usually expect to see 500 worshippers on a Sunday but now there are limited opening times for individual prayer only. It is also keeping its Langar (community kitchen) closed which would feed regulars and visitors at the temple.

Rev Sam Corley.

Individual prayer times have been limited to 8am to 11am and 5pm to 7pm daily. The temple is operating a one in, one out basis and a one way system through the temple. Worshippers also get their temperature checked and are equipped with masks and gloves.

Bikrampal Singh is a volunteer at The Gurdwara and helped co-ordinate the partial reopening.

He said: "We decided that the restrictions implemented, we would not be able to implement in The Temple all throughout the day. Temples are not like churches or Hindu temples or mosques. We only have volunteers and decided it was best to continue the way that we are at the moment. The Langar and community food will not be allowed until we don't know when.

"Normally people come and go all the time, the kitchen is ongoing all the time, students come and have a meal and pay their respects. It is a community place where people come and go all day long."

Mr Singh said The Temple would not resume usual operations until guidelines changed,

He added: "We follow guidelines set by the task force, we do not make decisions by ourselves. We will follow exactly what they tell us. But opening for prayer has been good for mental health. If you go cycling every day and you don't do it and move around the house, you will keep thinking there is something missing. From that point of view it is important for people to do what they do everyday."