CHURCHES should fling open their doors and welcome back their congregation as the Government eases lockdown, MPs and vicars say.

Several south Essex MPs have backed the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, in his aim to get churches re-opened in line with the retail sector.

The Rev Marion Walford, from St Nicholas Church on Canvey, says places of worship should open as soon as possible, if safety measures are in place.

Her church could re-open from tomorrow, but only for private prayer.

She added: “We’re used to queuing for supermarkets, people would be happy to queue for church.

“It would mean so much to the community if they could attend church again.”

Mrs Walford told the Echo the church had drawn up plans to re-open as soon as possible, with a limited number of church-goers allowed inside at once and signs keeping people two metres apart.

The church would not be using tape to cordon off pews and wouldn’t put time restrictions on how long members of the congregation would be allowed inside, but she urged visitors to use their common sense.

Mrs Walford added: “People are used to keeping apart now, as long as they use their awareness, two metres will be maintained.

“If people see a queue outside, they won’t stay inside too long.

“There’s no reason why we can’t open soon.”

Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, said: “As long as proper social distancing measures are adhered to, there should be no reason why churches should not re-open along with other areas of society.

“At this particular time, perhaps more than ever, faith can be a comfort, an inspiration and a source of support.”

Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, added: “Churches and other places of worship play an important role in our society and the sooner they are open, even if with limited capacity, the better.

“I would therefore encourage the Government to work with faith leaders to find a safe way to re-open and allow people the opportunity to practice their faith in person.”

John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, added: “I imagine it will be some time before congregations will be able to fill our churches again, but as long as the proper measures are taken, including good hygiene, ventilation and social distancing, there is a good case for allowing them to re-open for private prayer and reflection.”