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Churches go Underground

Regular church-goers are following the example of religious people in Communist China and holding clandestine services. The Guardian has more:

Minimal information – time, directions – is quietly given with pleas for discretion. Once everyone is assembled in a barn on a remote farm – “away from prying eyes,” says the organiser – it begins.

This is no rave, but an English church service under lockdown, and the organiser is a Protestant pastor. The Christians who will gather illegally in the west of England on Sunday morning – as they have for the past two Sundays – will pray, read from the scriptures, sing hymns and listen to a sermon.

“We’ve been holding clandestine services since this lockdown began,” the pastor told the Observer, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It feels weird for us to act this way. People have said it feels more like an underground church in China.”

“I never thought I’d say this in Britain, but churches are going underground. These are not isolated cases – and the longer it goes on, more churches will join the movement,” said Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, a conservative evangelical group, and a member of the Church of England’s ruling body, the General Synod.

Andrew, a minister at a London church, said: “We’ve carried on as normal [during the current lockdown]. We’re holding a couple of services each Sunday, with about 160 people attending in total.

“We’ve asked people to be discreet. This is not a stunt we’re pulling, we’re not seeking publicity. It was a big decision – I’ve never practised civil disobedience before.”

Worth reading in full.

The story comes hot on the heels of the closure of bookshop and tearoom – The Mustard Seed – in Gedling which cited the Magna Carta in its bid to stay open. From the BBC:

The owner of the Mustard Seed in Gedling, Nottinghamshire, had already been fined a total of £17,000 for breaching coronavirus rules, the Council said.

She had argued she had a right under the Magna Carta and “common law” to remain open.

On Friday magistrates in Mansfield granted a closure order.

This means the business has to close immediately. Failure to do so could lead to imprisonment, a fine, or both, according to Gedling Borough Council.

Anyone visiting could face the same punishment

Stop Press: A hasidic syngogue in Brooklyn pulled off quite the coup in hosting a maskless wedding for the chief rabbi’s grandson. Details in the New York Post.