RELIGIOUS figures across Windsor and Maidenhead gave an update on how coronavirus had impacted their communities.

Representatives from an array of faith groups – such as the Church of England, Sikh, Judaism, etc. – met at their first virtual SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education) meeting via Zoom on July 7 (Tuesday) to talk about how Covid-19 has impacted their services and faith group.

Members said since lockdown was announced by government on March 23, religious services and even ceremonies have been performed online via Zoom and on the phone for those who do not have access to the internet to try and halt the spread of the coronavirus.

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Ravinder Singh Zandu, representing the Sikh community, said they’ve been having shorter Sunday services while observing social distancing and have asked people to stay and pray for 10-15 minutes so other people can come and join in.

With the embrace of live streaming their services and lectures, faith figures said they were amazed that hundreds of people have joined and listened in online – with Chris Sayers, Buddhist, saying he had up to 800 people listening to one his group’s lectures.

Bereavements were reported by some members – but said that only a small number of deaths have been coronavirus-related.

Councillor Donna Stimson (Conservative: St Mary’s), lead member for environmental services and climate change, said: “We’ve had prayer sessions all on our own but through Zoom and that’s actually been quite an extraordinary experience – and we’ve been able to reach those people who have been on their own normally because they are shielding.”

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The government permitted places of worship to reopen from June 15 for individual prayer in line with social distancing.

However, some faith representatives said they will not reopen their places of worship until September at the earliest.

Rev Margaret Dudley said: “We are not planning to reopen anytime soon because from a Methodist point of view we sing our faith and if we get together and can’t sing – then I don’t know what we’ll do.”

She added: “I don’t see many of our buildings will be open before September, although we are getting ready to open – but people are comfortable with embracing Zoom.”