Sandwell Council was sending out a heartfelt thank-you to borough faith leaders who paused congregational worship in a bid to halt rising Covid-19 infection rates. Places of worship for a variety of faiths closed voluntarily to protect people – despite the fact that, for most, the decision would mean a severe loss of funding.

Deputy Council Leader Councillor Maria Crompton and Director of Public Health Dr Lisa McNally said they wanted to put on record their appreciation for the decisive action by faith leaders in a bid to protect the community. She 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 our communities should be very proud.”

Dr McNally said: “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." Some of the faith leaders who took the decision to close to congregational worship have provided comments:

Imam Ghulam Rasool, Bahu Trust Sandwell, 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.” 

Reverend David Gould, of Holy Trinity Church Smethwick: “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.”

Harmohinder Singh Bhatia, Sant Nirankari Satsang Bhawan (Centre for Oneness) in Wednesbury commented: “Although there are financial difficulties the safety of our congregation is important so we have closed our place of worship since March last year.”

Pastor Peter Spence, Warley Baptist Church added: “The pandemic has seen a drop in our income that has at times been 80% of the normal monthly levels, however the safety of our community is more important than money.”

Reverend Nutan Sandhya J Suray, West Smethwick Methodist Church said: “West Smethwick Methodist Church has been hard hit financially due to closing the church and no letting rentals. However, the health of our people is more important so we must take care of ourselves and each other.”

Nasir Zameer, Chair of Trustees, The Abrahamic Foundation also said: “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.” 

Hema Patel, President of the Shree Krishna Mandir Hindu temple in West Bromwich added: “It is a great concern for Trustees and working committee as to how to sustain and maintain our place of worship but the focus is to keep our community safe.”