Yesterday The Bishop of Carlisle, on the instruction of the Archbishops and following Government guidance, has ordered all Church of England buildings to close until further notice.

This means church buildings will not be open to weddings, baptisms or funeral services.

The venerable Richard Pratt, Archdeacon of West Cumberland said that emergency baptisms will be allowed in hospital or in people’s homes, but with social distancing measures put in place.

He wanted to tell people that although the church buildings had closed, it didn’t mean that the church is not still available for people. He said: “This is a really difficult, horrible time for everyone and I know from my conversations with lots of clergy that we are sorry to have to close our churches when people need it the most. The motive for doing this is to keep people safe. We don’t want to overwhelm the NHS. But when our churches are closed it doesn’t mean the church is not continuing, we will be praying to keep everyone safe. The church is there for everybody and will still be there when we come out the other side. We will be praying for everyone and remembering people in prayers.”

Funeral services will now take place at the graveside, or at the crematorium.

Rev Keith Teasdale, from St Cuthbert’s Church in Carlisle, said: “It is awful at the moment, dreadful. About a week ago the church of England closed the buildings to worship and then another announcement was made on baptisms and weddings, reducing the size of weddings to five people and baptisms to parents and god parents, but now no baptisms or weddings can go ahead and funerals are taking place, but are very much restricted. No funerals can take place in church buildings now, There is only services at the graveside, with just four people or 12 at the chapel at the crematorium. These are national government guidelines.”

“I’ve got a funeral next week at the crematorium and it is just 12 people and me. What saddens me is we had conversations where he told me exactly what he wanted for his funeral, the hymns, eulogy, everything, and it was to be a celebration of his life and now we can’t do it like he wanted it.”

“Although it’s been very very hard, families have been lovely, even though they are getting a double whammy. The guidelines are there to protect everyone and they have been very understanding of that.

“The work of the church is still ongoing, we are contacting members of the church by phone and just checking on them, they are really appreciative of a phone call. The work of the church goes on pastorally, we are considering on-line streaming of services. Social media is very good, but we have to be mindful that many of the older generation don’t have access to it, so saying on-line services are available doesn’t mean anything.”

Peter Watson, from Glencross funeral directors in Dalston, said: “The catholic church closed last week. Yesterday the church of England said their buildings would not be holding services. There is a maximum of 12 close family members allowed to attend at the crematorium. No-one is allowed to touch the coffin. At the crematorium the order of service and tissues has to be removed by the person themselves and there is no waiting in the crematorium at all. They are going to reduce services to five a day so that staff can sterilise seats in between the services. There will be no hymn books in the chapel, it’s all to reduce any risk. Going forward they will look at reducing the number of services to reduce risk. A graveside service in the churchyard is allowed, but not a service in any building. Some families are thinking of having a memorial at a future date. It’s been a massive step-change, today we heard we will be doing our first Covid-19 funeral.

"We are no longer doing face-to-face arrangements if possible and if we do have to do face-to-face meetings, with just two family members in a large room. We have to protect ourselves too and care for the families at the end of the day. We have just done our first live streaming of a funeral. We are between a rock and a hard place, care for our families is second to none and it is pulling at our heart strings that we can’t give them what they want.”