Wigan churches suspend worship and private prayer
Communal worship and private prayer in Anglican churches across Wigan and Leigh was stopped the day after prime minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown.
Church leaders said it was a "difficult decision" and recognised it would be a blow to many believers in the borough.
However, they said the suspension was put in place after looking at the most up-to-date coronavirus data and at public health advice.
In a statement the Rev Neil Cook, the team rector at Church Wigan, and Area Dean of Wigan the Rev Sam Nicholson said: "We understand how important it is to physically come to church and worship with others, and recognise some will be saddened by this decision.
"Nevertheless, we feel this action best supports our brave NHS workers by reducing the risk of spreading the infection through church, especially in this critical time when much resource is needed for the vaccine rollout.
"We also wish to show solidarity with our neighbours, businesses and other organisations suffering the full effects of lockdown."
Communal worship remains legal in places where it can be safely carried out.
However, the church in Wigan said it decided to suspend services and individual prayer due to what it called an "extremely dangerous situation", with the coronavirus "spreading exponentially" and concerns over the rates of infections among the over-60s.
The church stressed that it is continuing to minister, with worship and prayer continuing online and via telephone. It also said pastoral care is being enhanced.
Ministers will conduct funerals and activities like the food outlets will continue to feed those in need.
Clergy and officers of Church Wigan will work with public health experts to review the suspension of worship later on in January in the hope of resuming in-person services in February.
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