Rt Hon Boris Johnson, PC, MP
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 0AA

Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, MP, Secretary of State for Communities and
Local Government
Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, Minister of State

Dear Prime Minister
We write as leaders of faith communities represented on the
government Places of Worship Taskforce to raise our profound
concerns at the forthcoming restriction measures to be introduced in
England on Thursday 5th November 2020.
Since the Covid-19 virus first emerged, faith communities across the
country have been acutely aware of the tragic consequences for
people everywhere and of the intractable dilemmas which the
government has had to negotiate. Our thoughts and prayers have
been with the Cabinet, Parliament and all who advise them, and
above all with those who have died or are bereaved, unemployed or
unbearably stressed by the virus and its consequences.
Public Worship is covid-19 secure
In the last six months we have collaborated closely with Ministers
and officials to keep people safe. We worked together to establish
two principles of co-operation:
1. Ensuring a balance between the government providing health
and safety requirements, and faith communities subsequently
determining theological aspects of what forms of
worship/activity could be accommodated within this. Many of
us have gone above and beyond the former and safely
implemented the latter. In this way, the fine and desired
balance has been maintained.
2. The importance of proceeding on the basis of good quality
scientific and medical evidence, but also that the language of
the guidance was both specific enough to ensure safety, but
non-specific enough to allow accommodation of different faiths
without implicit bias towards one group or another.
We have demonstrated, by our action, that places of worship and
public worship can be made safe from Covid transmission. Given the
significant work we have already done, we consider there to be, now,
no scientific justification for the wholesale suspension of public
We understand entirely that the country faces significant challenges
and the reasons behind the Government’s decision to bring in new
measures. But we strongly disagree with the decision to suspend
public worship during this time. We have had reaffirmed, through
the bitter experience of the last six months, the critical role that faith
plays in moments of tremendous crisis, and we believe public worship
is essential. We set out below why we believe it is essential, and we
ask you to allow public worship, when fully compliant with the
existing covid-19 secure guidance, to continue.
Public Worship is Essential to sustain our service
Faith communities have been central to the pandemic response, and
we will continue to be so.
During the first period of restrictions, we ceased public worship in
our buildings. We moved much online, and we have provided
significant resource to support our communities and our nation, from
practical support such as foodbanks and volunteering, to promoting
social cohesion, mental health and coping during these months.
But common worship is constitutive of our identity, and essential for
our self-understanding. Without the worshipping community, our
social action and support cannot be energised and sustained
indefinitely. Our commitment to care for others comes directly from
our faith, which must be sustained and strengthened by our meeting
together in common worship. Worshipping together is core to our
identity and an essential aspect of sustaining our mission and our
Common worship is also necessary to sustain the health and
wellbeing of faith community members engaged in caring for others
whether paid or voluntary1. Much has been made of the adverse
impact on mental health of volunteer and paid carers during this
pandemic. Common Worship is an important way of sustaining the
wellbeing, and ability to serve, of people of faith who volunteer. The
benefits of public worship are scientifically well attested2. For this
reason alone, given the size and duration of the contribution of faith
communities to the pandemic response, and the importance of
sustaining their commitment and wellbeing, public worship is
essential, should be classed by government as necessary and
supported to continue. It enables and sustains people of faith in
contributing to the service and health of our nation.
Public Worship is necessary for social cohesion and
Increasing social scientific evidence makes clear that social
connectedness, solidarity and social cohesion are key to both enabling
people to stay resilient throughout restrictions due to covid-19 and
central to compliance with the behaviours we need them to adopt to
reduce transmission. This has been attested to in papers from
Government’s own Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies. We
also know that faith communities are creators of such connectedness
and cohesion and their public presence and witness helps engender
this. Given the importance of solidarity and connectedness, and the
importance of public presence, we believe public worship should be
classed as essential, and supported to continue.
Public Worship is important for the Mental Health of our
1 Koenig HG. Research on religion, spirituality, and mental health: A review. Can J Psychiatry.
2009;54:283–91 2 Bruce MA, Martins D, Duru K, Beech BM, Sims M, Harawa N, et al. (2017) Church attendance,
allostatic load and mortality in middle aged adults. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177618.
The health benefits of attending worship are well known, and the
burden of psychological and physical ill-health from isolation and
during the pandemic are increasingly well understood. This is
especially so for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic people. Public
Health England’s own review found that faith communities were an
important connect for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic people during
this period.
Moreover, it is a well-known and well-studied phenomenon that
people turn to faith communities as a way of coping with trauma and
grief3. This is the common experience of faith communities in
England during COVID and especially since communal worship
restarted. People are turning to faith communities, not just in our
social care services but during public worship, as a way of coping
with their sense of trauma, grief and loss. The public mental health
impact of this has been significant, and it provides an important way
of supporting the nation without overburdening NHS and other
mental health services. Public Worship provides an important sign
that faith communities are there for people. We believe this must be
regarded by government as essential.
Public Worship is an essential sign of hope
The psychological impact of uncertainty, restriction and the impact of
the infection is increasingly well studied. We know that people seek
signs of normality to help them make sense of restrictions and major
change and disruption to their lives. We also know that where people
see others act with hope and purpose that we will recover from
disasters and traumas; this gives them hope and encouragement too.
From a social psychological perspective, faith communities who
consistently embody behaviours and attitudes that are covid-19 safe
and hopeful provide encouragement to others through modelling
these behaviours and attitudes. They are part of the journey to
recovery. Public worship is therefore an essential sign that we can
find new ways of living with Covid-19 until the vaccine is found, and
part of the psychological and social cohesion needed to exit restriction
measures. Public worship should therefore be supported to continue.

In summary, the scientific evidence shows that social solidarity and
connectedness are key to people maintaining motivation to comply
with COVID secure measures and to maintain good mental health.
And there is good scientific evidence of the importance of faith and
faith communities for positive mental health and coping, especially
for Black Asian and Minority Ethnic people.
We have already said there is no scientific rationale for suspension of
Public Worship where it is compliant with the guidance that we have
worked jointly with government to establish. We believe
government, and Public Health England, accept this.
Government is making decisions about what aspects of our life
during this period of restrictions are essential. We believe we have
demonstrated that continuation of public worship is essential, for all
the reasons we have set out above.
We call on government to recognise and support this, and enable us
to continue to worship safely, as part of the essential fabric of the nation.

Yours sincerely
+Vincent Cardinal Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
+ Justin Cantaur
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury
+Stephen Ebor
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell Archbishop of York
+Sarah Londin
The Rt Revd & Rt Hon Sarah Mullally Bishop of London
with the support of the members of the House of Bishops of the
Church of England
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the
Gurmail Singh Malhi
President Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall
Shaykh Dr Asim Yusuf
Chair: The British Board of Scholars and Imams
Sayed Yousif Al-Khoei
Al-Khoei Foundation
Agu Irukwu
Senior Pastor,Jesus House for all Nations
Rajnish Kashyap MCICM
General Secretary/Director
Hindu Council UK (HCUK)
Daniel Singleton,
National Executive Director,Faith Action