SADDLEWORTH’s nine Church of England churches are not expected to fully reopen before autumn because of the pandemic.

Rev Canon Sharon Jones, Saddleworth team rector, said the churches were waiting for guidance from the Church of England, but that she did not expect Saddleworth being fully open until the Autumn.

“During lockdown while our buildings have been closed, we have been very much ‘open’,” she explained.

“Thousands in the community have accessed the online broadcasts, particularly around Easter and Whit Friday. There continues to be online zoom worship for those who wish to participate, and daily prayers and meditations to follow.

“However, mindful of the permissions given by government, the need to protect the most vulnerable in our community and the desire expressed by many to be able to enter the beautiful church buildings of Saddleworth, we are now looking at ways of beginning to open safely.

“Some of the church buildings already struggle to accommodate large congregations, so observing social distancing severely limits the numbers who might attend.

"Logistically, it is very challenging. We are looking at many different options while waiting for guidance from the Diocese of Manchester.

“But the intention during July and August is for at least two of the church buildings, Christ Church Friezland and Holy Trinity Dobcross, to be open twice a week for private prayer. Necessary safeguarding measures will be observed.”