SURELY, it must be time to open up our churches again. I guess that there is a Government group somewhere tasked with thinking about this, but it seems slow in coming to me.

Schools, of course, have been a priority and rightly so; education is one of the cornerstones of our civil society.

And shops and workplaces are on that list too. I can understand that as well; important to get the economy working again.

But there has been a strange silence about churches and other religious groups in the UK.

I say strange because churches contribute to the social cohesion of our communities.

They are still seen by many as the centre of the community; offering help in a time of need and, in my experience, doing much to alleviate mental health problems and loneliness.

I know that my own church has been diligent in closing its doors from the beginning of lockdown – and rightly so.

But surely now it cannot be right for someone to visit Homebase, go to the pet shop, and walk around a crowded outside market but not be allowed to go into church to engage in private prayer.

And if our schools are able to adapt to receiving groups of children in a socially distanced way, then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that some churches, at least, could be adapted so that religious worship could happen in a safe way.

This is not to say that churches have not been innovative in providing ministry in lockdown.

There have been thousands of online services of Christian worship and a recent survey found that almost one in four adults have watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown began.

But we know that it is not the same as meeting with one another and sharing one another’s burdens.

Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not arguing for a full opening; but at election time we were told again by all the political parties what a great contribution faith groups give to society. It seems that fact has slipped their minds.