23:14 GMT28 November 2020
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    As coronavirus cases began to spike in Wales, the devolved authorities have introduced strict lockdown measures that prevent large-scale socialization and have shut down venues that host big crowds such as pubs, bars, and restaurants.

    A pastor has slammed the Welsh government for ordering places of worship to shut their doors to the public amid new coronavirus restrictions, describing their actions as neither moral nor legal, after his Sunday evening service was broken up by police.

    Speaking to Christian news outlet Premier on Monday, Pastor McLennan who led the service at the New Hope Community Church described the incident as "upsetting" for some church members and said the government should not have the ability to shut down public worship. 

    "Worship is something that's given to us by God. It's not something that's actually given to us through government, that's given to you by your Creator".

    Pastor McLennan said that Wales has banned public singing, which he explained "has always been a part of" the Christian faith.

    "We have an entire book of the Bible given towards singing, it's the centrepiece of the scriptures", he added.

    His congregation followed the police commands but Pastor McLennan admitted to Premier they will likely hold another service this coming Sunday. 

    "We've had so many people that have said 'it's wonderful what you're doing and 'we're glad that you're standing'. But not many people want to do the standing themselves".

    He said that the members were not "lawless" or "out riding and destroying things but we wanted to gather, and certainly we should have the liberty to gather".

    According to McLennan, the Church has been following social distancing measures during its services. The typical 150 membership has been broken into 3 services in order to maximise safety.

    A spokesperson for the Welsh Government told Premier that they "appreciate" the difficulty of the restrictions but stressed that they have been introduced for two weeks in order to "prevent the spread of this deadly virus and save lives".

    "We support all faiths in Wales and have not stopped people from worshipping, but we face a very serious situation; people are dying every day as a result of coronavirus."

    The government representative called on everyone to "work together to make this firebreak successful if we are to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed and even more people losing their lives over the weeks and months ahead".

    "We are absolutely aware of the serious impact loneliness can have on individuals, and we are determined to do everything we can to support people through these difficult times. We have made changes to our regulations to allow people to form an "extended household" if they live alone, whilst our Looking Out For Each Other campaign offers advice about how we can support others", the spokesperson said.

    According to Premier, South Wales Police said that they explained the rules and allowed for "five minutes of prayer" before attendees left the Church and they did not issue any fixed penalty notices.

    "We know civil restrictions are frustrating and disheartening for people, but by following them, we can all play a part in protecting our communities and the National Health Service", the police said.

    The incident at New Hope Community Church Llanrumney, Cardiff was filmed and posted to Facebook.

    As the police turn up, after receiving calls from members of the public, one church-goer can be heard calling the restriction is an "unlawful regulation".

    Christian leaders in Wales wrote to First Minister Mark Drakeford last week urging the government not to shut churches during the firebreak lockdown, even threatening legal action for an "extreme interference" of the Human Rights Act.

    This follows widespread complaints by the public after the Welsh authorities called on shops to only sell "essential" items, which saw clothes and housing utensils tapped over across the country.


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    coronavirus, COVID-19, Church, Christianity, Wales
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