End the Lockdown image

End the Lockdown

End the lockdown, period? Well that’s what University of Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta is advising, but that’s not the lockdown I have in my sights. No, my particular concern is around weddings.

As of yesterday shops in England reopened, tomorrow Premiership football restarts, and later this week my wife will be in school teaching a class – and projecting her voice – over 15 pupils at a time. Yet I am not allowed to perform a wedding, even though it would be possible to do so with only half a dozen people in the room. It is not just me: these inconsistencies are causing growing frustration in churches across the land and it needs to change.

A couple of observations about this.

First, my guess is that the government is being cautious about allowing weddings because to most minds ‘wedding’ = ‘mass party’. And mass party means booze and dancing and a disintegration of social distancing. Fair enough.

Secondly, this only serves to underline the diminished view of marriage that now prevails in our society: that a wedding is not much more than an excuse to throw a party. But those of us who believe that ‘this is about that’ take a very different view. Marriage is not merely a personal, romantic, decision. It is a covenant contracted in the sight of God, intended to mirror the relationship between Christ and his church, and a societal good that is at least as much about the health and wellbeing of the community at large as it is about the couple themselves. There are couples in my church who are wanting to enact this – why should they have to wait to do so while lines form around the block for Primark, our beaches and parks are packed, and schools reopen?

Lockdown has created the largest restriction on religious freedom our country has experienced since the Act of Toleration was passed in 1689. We’re good citizens. We’ve kept to the rules. We’ve cancelled our services, wrestled with the technology and gone online. We’ve been the first responders in caring for the vulnerable and creating neighbourhood groups. It’s time to allow us to carry out weddings. The wedding lockdown needs to end.

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