CHURCHES across Bury are taking the first tentative steps towards welcoming back their congregations this week for the first time since lockdown began.

Places of worship, like pubs, cinemas, theatres and sports stadiums, have been out of bounds since the beginning of lockdown, under social distancing advice.

But clergy at Bury Parish Church, among others, are preparing to throw open their doors for private prayer, under strict conditions.

And guidance has also been given to members of the town's Roman Catholic and Muslim faiths on how the same can be achieved.

A Bury Parish Church spokesman said the venue would be open on Wednesdays and Saturdays between noon and 2pm, though the coffee shop would remain closed.

He added: "Social distancing guidelines are in place and we look forward to welcoming you to a safe space for personal reflection. We will be applying all the safety, cleansing and hygiene advice, so that risks to public health are mitigated."

One RC church which has reopened has been Our Lady of Grace, in Prestwich, with prayer times running from 11am to 7pm.

Monsignor John Allen said in a newsletter: "We all owe a big ‘thank-you’ to the team of volunteer welcomers.

"They have seen that everything has been done smoothly, with due care and attention to all the required safety measures."

Weekday masses will be trialled across the diocese before Sunday Mass returns.

Mosques across Bury are also making their own preparations for coming out of lockdown, such as the Jamia Khizra in Parker Street.

Plans are in place to reopen this Saturday, with markers keeping worshippers apart. An appeal for volunteers has also been issued.

A spokesman said: "We have space for approximately 200 people in the main hall. Along with other areas that we intend to use we will have a total capacity of approximately 300."