PLACES of worship can reopen for services today – but several in Brighton are staying shut.

They believe it will take more time before they can open safely.

For the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began, gatherings of more than 30 people can now join in communal worship. They must obey social distancing guidelines, and services will have to be carried out in the shortest possible time to cut the risk of infection.

Prayer mats, service sheets, and religious texts should not be shared, and the Government has said that communal singing should be avoided to reduce the risk of transmission.

But even with these measures in place, some religious buildings in Brighton have decided it is still too early to open more widely.

The Reverend at St Luke’s Anglican church in Prestonville believes there has not been enough time to prepare.

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Reverend Martin Poole said: “We’ve had very short notice. Schools have now been told they’ll resume in September, which is a nice lead in – we’ve had just four days, which is much too quick.

“Every church has been told it can decide for itself. We’re not opening at St Luke’s – we want to take a little more time to make sure we understand the guidelines correctly, so that when we open up, we can so it safely and effectively.”

The church has been testing out new ways for worshippers to join in – including services over Zoom. Reverend Poole said the church plans to open towards the end of the month, and he is looking at how to bring back those unable to access online services. “We want to ensure they can experience it in person, but it’s challenging because typically, it’s older people still being advised to at home or trying to shield,” he said. “Some have had no church worship for the whole of lockdown.”

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Alquds Mosque in Dyke Road has postponed communal Friday prayers indefinitely.

Asim Takriti, chairman of Brighton Mosque and Muslim Community Centre, said: “We’re not going to open for Friday prayers until further notice – it’s too difficult to maintain social distancing. It would be impossible with more than 200 people inside the mosque.

“We really want to open – we’ve been closed for such a long time and people are eager to come. It’s such a sad feeling and it’s a really hard decision. We’ve been able to open for the five daily prayers, but Friday prayer is the most important for us – it’s where everyone comes together.

“I know it’s not just Muslims feeling this – the Jewish community too is struggling to find ways to worship together – we’re in the same boat.”

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A spokeswoman for Middle Street Synagogue said it would not be opening for regular prayer due to the risk of passing on the virus. She said: “In Judaism, the most important thing is to save life – when you save one life, you save the world entire.”

Brighton’s rabbis have been hosting services on Zoom and worshippers have been praying at home.

But the Grade II listed synagogue – which holds occasional services and is mostly used as a visitor centre, welcoming more than 5,000 people a year for talks and tours, is staying shut for now. It hopes to hold its first service of thanksgiving next month.