A CHURCH has moved its services online despite Government guidelines permitting communal worship in the building.

Services at St Luke’s Church, in Tiptree, now take place on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 10am on Zoom.

Government guidelines say worshippers can still leave home to attend religious services, a funeral, or a wedding ceremony.

However, the team at the church decided the risk was too high to consider opening up again.

The Rev Anne-Marie Renshaw said: “This time in the lockdown, the Government has not ordered places of worship to close.

“But because the infection rates are so high, the Diocese of Chelmsford strongly advised churches to move their services online.

“Also, Essex County Council sent a joint letter to all faith leaders asking strongly for us to move our worship online.

“We had already taken the decision to do that because, before Christmas and when we were in the tiers, half of Tiptree parish was in Tier 2 and half in Tier 4.

“At that point, we decided to put our Christmas services online and our public worship online too.”

Ms Renshaw said she found the Government’s decision to open up public worship surprising but acknowledged that members of the public did speak out when churches were shut last year.

Alongside the Zoom meetings, printouts of services are being hand-delivered to churchgoers without internet access.

Ms Renshaw said: “Canon law of the Church of England states all parish churches to have a service every Sunday.

“In order to make it legal, we’ve had to pass a resolution as a church council where we feel it’s not safe, and the Church of England has approved it.

She added: “Can I guarantee that nobody is going to chat with someone from outside their household? No, I can’t.

“We know there have been confirmed cases in our church community. What we don’t know is how many there are without symptoms.

“It’s not worth the risk.”

The church is still allowing funerals to take place.