Bridgend County Borough Council has welcomed the clarity provided by Welsh Government that congregational prayers are permitted at funerals.
The council’s cabinet member for communities, Councillor Richard Young, said: “The facts in this matter have been misrepresented, and nobody has been ‘banned’ from reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
“Prayers have always been an integral and important part of many funeral services at Coychurch Crematorium, and I want to make it clear that at no point have we ever prevented them from being said.
“In this particular instance, the issue was around the mass recital of the Lord’s Prayer which was understood to be against the temporary regulations introduced by Welsh Government in order to protect people from the higher risk of coronavirus transmission.
“After the service had finished, crematorium staff had a quiet word with a member of clergy to point out that for the time being, prayers could only be said out loud by one person at a time. This was done away from the mourners, and at no time was the service interrupted.
“The crematorium staff believed they were acting in accordance with Welsh Government regulations which state that activities such as singing and chanting should be specifically avoided due to the possible additional risk of infection, and that this applies even if physical distancing is being observed or face coverings are in use.
“Where it is an essential part of the ceremony, the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations 2020 state that only one individual should be permitted to sing or chant.
“They go on to say that while it is possible for more than one individual to sing or chant over the course of a ceremony, it cannot be at the same time.
“Throughout the pandemic, our staff at Coychurch Crematorium and council-maintained cemeteries across the county borough have continued to provide a sensitive and professional service to help families navigate through very difficult periods in their lives.
“They have done this while adapting to major changes in regulations, such as limits on the number of mourners at services, and despite a significant increase in funerals.
“We understood from the guidelines that hymns and prayers are allowed to be followed silently or to be mouthed during the period of these restrictions, just not spoken out loud altogether. As a result, we provide hymn music, poems and prayers for all services that request it.
“We understood this to be fully in accordance with Welsh Government regulations to help prevent the spread of coronavirus between mourners, clergy, funeral directors and crematorium staff.
“Furthermore, our approach in implementing these regulations has been clear throughout the pandemic, and is in line with other neighbouring authorities.
“We appreciate The Lord’s Prayer is of great comfort to many of those attending services. 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.”