The moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly has said he will be back in his church this Sunday as the rules on religious services ease.
The Right Rev Dr Martin Fair said he agreed with the need to close churches earlier in the pandemic but believes it is now safe to return.
A group of 27 church leaders launched a judicial review at the Court of Session arguing Scottish Government ministers acted outwith their powers when ordering the closure of places of worship under emergency coronavirus legislation.
Judge Lord Braid issued his judgment on Wednesday, finding the Government regulations were unlawful as they disproportionately interfered with the freedom of religion secured in the European Convention on Human Rights.
As part of the easing of lockdown in Scotland, communal worship is permitted from Friday, with a maximum congregation of 50 people.
The Church of Scotland was not one of those which challenged the rules, but Dr Fair said he respected the right of those who did so.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We understand that with every right comes a responsibility and our responsibility throughout the worst of the pandemic has to be to keep one another safe and to keep our communities safe.
“So we have willingly been ready to have our church buildings closed for this season, understanding that it was a temporary measure for public health reasons.
“And now we’re beginning to work our way through that, it’s more safe for our buildings to be open again.”
He said worship has continued throughout lockdown with online meetings, adding: “That said, am I going to be in church on Sunday? Yes I am, for Palm Sunday and then for Easter Sunday.
“Online has worked well but we know it’s not quite the same as being in the same space together.”
Leo Cushley, the Catholic Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, told the programme that the return of communal worship will be “very special” – and he added the cap of 50 attendees should be maintained for now.
Rev Cushley said: “I welcome our churches being open, but I would continue to urge prudence and caution and to be content for now with the 50 cap.
“I look forward very much to the day when I can get my cathedral full again.”