The Church of England will no longer require its churches to hold weekly Sunday services, ending a canon law dating back to 1603 that mandated that each church hold a service on the traditional day of worship.
The Bishop of Willesden, Pete Broadbent, who introduced the measure, called the law “out of date,” reported BBC News.
Currently priests, many of whom, especially in rural areas, are responsible for multiple churches, are required to ask for permission from a bishop to skip the Sunday services.
According to the Guardian, the change is expected to affect “parishes with small and declining congregations in rural areas.” The report noted that in rural areas, priests who are responsible for as many as 20 churches have been required to hold services in each one of them even if only a “handful” of worshipers are in attendance.
Bishop Broadbent told the BBC that changing the law simply makes it easier for priests to do what they are already doing.
“You’re meant to get a dispensation from the bishop — this just changes the rules to make it easier for people to do what they’re already doing. It stops the bureaucracy.
“This was just one (amendment) where we said, ‘Out of date, doesn’t work, we’re operating differently in the countryside now, therefore let’s find a way of making it work,'” he said.
The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, praised the change, according to the BBC report:
“Times are changing — it is not just about a shortage of clergy but also the fact that people work on a Sunday,” she said. “There is no use in crying over spilt milk. We need to find creative ways to worship.” She added that at her churches “Thursday is the new Sunday.”