Bridgend County Borough Council in southern Wales has reversed its decision to ban mourners from corporately reciting the Lord’s Prayer during funeral services.
Last week during the funeral of a 94-year-old grandmother, the family was told that they were breaking the Welsh government’s coronavirus guidelines by ending the service with the prayer, despite wearing masks and social distancing.
“To be honest, I was quite flabbergasted,” said Alison Davies, the minister who presided over the funeral.
Following the incident, a Bridgend Council spokesperson said the council “believed prayer to constitute chanting,” which is prohibited under the Welsh government’s coronavirus legislation.
“What is the world coming to when families grieving loved ones cannot say the Lord’s Prayer as they say goodbye?” Davies asked.
“The rules and guidelines are affecting families who are grieving as they are not allowed to sing hymns,” she added. “They cannot go near the coffin once it is inside the chapel, and now they cannot not even say a prayer together.”
After local media reported on the incident, the Welsh government clarified that praying in a “low tone” does not breach the rules.
“While chanting is restricted in funerals, speaking in a low tone to pray would not be considered against the guidance,” a government spokeswoman said.
The government also called on venues to “use common sense” when applying the law.
Bridgend Council has since apologized for upsetting the family but insists council members were just following government rules.
“We appreciate the Lord’s Prayer is of great comfort to many of those attending services,” said Richard Young, the council’s cabinet member for communities. “While we are sorry if our actions caused any upset, it is important to note that we were previously not aware that these regulations were open to interpretation, and were very surprised to see the Welsh government’s media response contradicting this approach.
“We very much welcome the additional clarity, which now permits a number of people to pray out loud at the same time,” he added.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, which supported Davies, said: “There is no ban on saying prayers together at a low volume, as the Welsh government has made clear.
“Those with responsibilities for churches, crematoriums and chapels need to know what the law really says and apply it with common sense and compassion,” she explained. “Unnecessary interventions and confrontations like this hurt the grieving process and cannot be undone. Our attempts to fight the coronavirus must not come at the expense of our humanity.”