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Marham worshippers bemoan church closure and outdoor funerals

Worshippers at a village church have questioned why the building has not reopened with concerns also being raised over funeral services taking place outside.

The Holy Trinity Church in Marham remains closed due to coronavirus safety precautions with the Diocese of Ely stating it supports all local church leaders in opening their buildings only when they believe they can safely do so.

Church warden Philip Fay said: "We have to comply with the law of the land and the church has stated we will not open until further notice."

Marham's church remains closed due to Covid-19
Marham's church remains closed due to Covid-19

He added that the church might reopen its doors in August.

But worshippers have expressed their frustration over having nowhere to pray or worship, especially those without a mode of transport to travel to other churches.

There are 30 churches in the Deanery area, with 12 of them being part of the West Norfolk Priory GroupBenefice. Three of these 12 churches, including Watlington and Fincham are currently open and Covid-secure.

And Marham worshippers hope to see their church follow suit and open its doors as soon as possible.

One churchgoer, who did not wish to be named, said: "Apparently we can go to one of the three churches which have been allowed to open. I do not see why I have to travel when my own church is on the doorstep.

"I just don't see why we can't go in to clean it, and to do what we need to do. We can have sanitiser.

"I can quite understand that every church nowadays has a congregation who are mostly over 50 but why should Covid be in the church now if you wear a mask and if the place has been cleaned? There is plenty of room to stay socially distanced."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Ely said it has been encouraging to see churches remain vibrant despite the coronavirus restrictions, referring to online services as one of the "variety of ways in which churches have reached members of the community who may not have previously been able to attend".

He added: "Churches are now able to reopen their doors but only where the local church leaders consider it safe for them to be able to do so while adhering to the relevant guidelines from government and the Church of England.

"The Diocese of Ely supports all of its local church leaders in opening their church buildings only when they believe they can do so safely, having undertaken the relevant risk assessments and in-line with the government guidelines which themselves continue to evolve as developments dictate.

"Many churches are dependent on volunteers to support church services and life events, such as funerals and weddings. In the current circumstances it is not realistic to expect all volunteers to be able to provide the level of support needed to open church buildings safely."

Swaffham town councillor Lindsay Beech said she had spoken to worshippers and the vicar of Marham, David Kroom, who are reportedly unhappy about the majority of churches in the Deanery remaining shut.

She added: "He [Mr Kroom] has even had to hold funerals outside, which has been extremely upsetting for the deceased loved ones. How dreadful!"

Regarding the outdoor services, the Diocese of Ely spokesman said: "We know that it has been a tremendously difficult time for so many in recent months where guidelines have required our church buildings to remain closed or have placed strict limitations on how services may be held.

"To adhere to the guidelines, many churches have held services outside, where social distancing requirements can be achieved to ensure those attending can do so safely."

The Prime Minister has now outlined plans to make face coverings mandatory in places of worship from August 8 and has withdrawn guidance to permit indoor professional performances with immediate effect.

The Church of England website states: "We will study detailed government regulations and guidance once they are available and will update our guidance accordingly.

"In the meantime, we continue to strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from Covid-19 and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing."

Since June 15, the Government has allowed access to places of worship for individual prayer and funerals. Services of worship were permitted from July 4.

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