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Unlock the churches!

Blog | By Harry Mount | Mar 30, 2020

The locked door of St Mary Magdalene, Paddington, yesterday (Credit: Harry Mount)

At a time of national crisis, if only there were some big, empty buildings where people could go and reflect, in an atmosphere of beauty and calm. If only they were so big that you would automatically practise social distancing because there are so many chairs and so few people.

Oh, hang on! Like magic, these buildings do exist in every village, town and city in the country. They're called churches - and yet both the Anglican and Catholic Church have, in their infinite wisdom, closed them down.

Of course it's understandable that they've stopped services - although, such is the state of both churches in this country, that lots of congregations were self-isolating through sparse attendance long before the virus struck. But why not leave them open for people to wander into, to sit and, if they want, to pray? An empty church is much less of a risk than, say, a supermarket or your own front door when meeting a delivery man.

There is nowhere better to consider difficult times than in an empty church. Despite being an agnostic, I often find myself, head in hands, bent over, in empty churches - in a position which, I'm sure isn't coincidental, is just like praying.

I found myself doing exactly that in the elegant 18th-century church of St Giles, Wimborne, St Giles, last weekend. It was the best spot to ponder 'thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears'. Unlock the churches.