REV OLIVER COSS COLUMN: It's not Christian to ask for health passports in churches this Christmas

The week after Remembrance Sunday always promises to be a peaceful one, except that it never really is quiet, writes Rev Oliver Coss.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 3:28 pm
Durham Cathedral announced people would only be allowed into Christmas services if they had a vaccine pass or proof of Covid negativity

The week after Remembrance Sunday always promises to be a peaceful one, except that it never really is quiet.

Mainly this is because whole parts of the town centre machinery, and our own at All Saints too, essentially puts everything on hold for two weeks until the parades are done, the bagpipes are deflated, and the poppy displays gradually give way to the twinkling lights of Christmas.

(‘Seriously? It’s NO-VEM-BER’, my daughter grumbled as we came into town this afternoon).

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

With the dying days of autumn comes colder weather and the gradual lurch toward everything that the cooler months have to offer.

According to some local news outlets at the weekend, you should be reading this under an avalanche of snow and ice transported from the Himalayas. Who knows, perhaps there was just a stiff frost where you were this morning.

Either way, Covid is running riot on the continent again and you can almost feel the attention of our leaders, scientists, and medical professionals stiffening as yet another dramatic story unfolds.

Last time it was India or Brazil, where certain variants first showed their devastating effect. Austria, the Czech Republic, and Germany are looking rather similar right now.

Not unnaturally, some people are back in panic mode, and they’re inspiring yet more panic in turn.

If there’s any chance of the UK holding steady as we face the post-half-term rise in cases, it might give us some confidence that living with Covid is going to be reflected in routinely larger numbers, but the tendency to back ourselves into the need for knee-jerk decisions might (just, might) diminish.

The announcements from the Austrian prime minister last week were every bit a knee-jerk decision, and while the news from several central European countries is rather grim (and the protests and disorders doubly so) it’s no surprise that renewed lockdowns, critical healthcare situations, and mandatory vaccination programmes are – at the very least – raising some grave misgivings.

In the UK, where our situation remains serious, but relatively stable, all the talk is of the extension of so-called vaccine passports, amid a certain vacuum of intelligence that they are making a difference in the way once hoped.

I suppose it’s believed that extending the scheme to a variety of venues might improve effectiveness, but it all seems a bit pointless next to the far more important work of reconnecting with groups and people who continue to have doubts over getting their jabs.

Ramping up measures that deprive liberty seems a poor option if there’s work to be done on convincement.

But that hasn’t stopped Durham Cathedral from announcing that entry to their Christmas services will only be granted with a vaccine pass, or evidence of a negative PCR or LFT in the preceding 48 hours.

Not merely is it a dangerous and unseemly precedent, but also goes against the Church of England’s official advice which stands in opposition to vaccine passports, but promotes robust mitigations.

I hope that churches will show sense as Christmas approaches.

Requiring people to show any form of information about their health before coming through the church door is entirely contrary to our Christian witness.