Places of worship for a variety of faiths closed voluntarily to protect people – despite the fact that, for most, the decision would mean a loss in funding.
Sandwell Council’s deputy leader, Maria Crompton, and director of public health, Dr Lisa McNally, have both thanked the faith leaders in the borough for the decisive action to help protect the community.
Councillor Crompton said: “Government’s lockdown guidance does not prohibit congregational worship and there was no legal requirement for them to close.
“However, they took the decision to close, fully aware of the financial risks and out communities should be very proud.”
Dr McNally added: “I have so much respect and admiration for our faith leaders here in Sandwell and the outstanding leadership they have shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic so far.
“They sought out public health advice over concerns about hosting congregational worship in the light of the rising Covid-19 rates.
“We were very keen to support any faith sector organisation deciding to pause services at this time, especially thinking of their members who are older and more at risk of severe illness and death.
“They have clearly prioritised protecting the health of their own and the wider community over financial worries and I sincerely believe their action has saved lives.
“I do hope their communities will support them in return and they will all come through the pandemic stronger.”
Reverend David Gould took the decision to close Holy Trinity Church, in Smethwick.
He said: “Closing public worship was a hard decision and, as with the others, there have been financial implications for us but the most important thing is the safety of people.”
Imam Ghulam Rasool, of the Bahu Trust Sandwell at Langley Mosque, said: “With high rates of infections in Sandwell and following discussions with the DPH it felt prudent to shut down.
“I hope we can get to some degree of normality as soon as possible, as the face-to-face disconnect will have long lasting irreparable effects.”
Pastor Pete Spence, from Warley Baptist Church, said: “The pandemic has seen a drop in our income that has at times been 80 per cent of the normal monthly levels, however, the safety of our community is more important than money.
And Nasir Zameer, chair of trustees at The Abrahamic Foundation, added: “Despite the financial loss, we chose to voluntarily close after all our staff, volunteers and trustees felt it had to be done to help save our NHS and country in reducing the spread of Covid-19.”