'Safer Than Costco' Gurdwara Aims To Give A Little Bit of Hope

Virlogist brought in to ensure prayer and community support continue

Volunteers help prepare meals for those in need
Volunteers help prepare meals for those in need. Picture: Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall


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Faith leaders have been urged to go beyond the Government’s rules and close for communal and private worship as Ealing and London hospitals are “under strain at a level not seen before” in the pandemic.

Council leader Julian Bell has written to the borough’s religious groups asking them to voluntarily take this step to help in the efforts to stop coronavirus spreading through the community.

Ealing has joined a number of other local authorities in London in appealing to places of worship to close for prayers as there are “serious concerns” London could be in a position where there is no spare capacity for intensive care beds, Cllr Bell said.

He added: “Given this very worrying situation and the urgent need to reduce infection rates and protect the NHS, I am urging all places of worship to voluntarily agree to go beyond the legal restrictions imposed by the Government.

“Acts of communal worship remain legal, but I am asking that Ealing’s places of worship make the voluntary step to go further and close for communal worship and individual prayer.”

The borough boss however encouraged sites to remain open to continue their roles helping the community such as by running food banks or soup kitchens.

Southall’s Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara general secretary Harmeet Singh Gill said a meeting with faith leaders in the area was held following Cllr Bell’s call, and that a number of places of worship have already closed anyway due to lack of footfall.

The Gurdwara organisation with sites in Havelock Road and Park Avenue however will continue to give “a little bit of hope” to individual worshippers through lockdown.

One-way system and a ban on sitting has been imposed
One-way system and a ban on sitting has been imposed. Picture: Sri Guru Singh Sabha Southall

Mr Gill said since the government guidance was released the Gurdwara had gone “above and beyond” in working to keep the site safe, including by hiring a virologist to help give specific advice and flag risks.

Sikhs attending the Gurdwara were previously allowed to spend hours worshipping, but now individuals can only come “for a few minutes to bow and leave”.

A strict one-way system and a ban on sitting are also imposed.

Mr Gill added that those few people still coming to worship are coming to the Gurdwara for the food collection service outside of the building so it “doesn’t make any sense” to stop the prayer aspect to their visit.

He added: “I still feel safer going to my Gurdwara than my Costco. We have all the PPE in place, since March we have had three contacts from Track and Trace…

“It’s pretty low risk we don’t see any meaningful contact of people.”

Through the food support the organisation carries out, volunteers were dishing out 3,000 meals a day before the third lockdown, with around 400 to 500 deliveries to people in the local community.

“Every time we saw a national lockdown we also saw a spike in the most vulnerable, that is only going to go up,” Mr Gill added.

While Mr Gill said the group completely understands Cllr Bell’s position, they will continue to monitor the situation and follow Public Health England advice.

After nearly 12 months of the pandemic, the 31-year-old said people’s mental and physical health are feeling the effects, adding: “I’m beginning to feel it and I’m young…It’s terrible thinking the elderly and those living on their own, what’s going through their minds?”

He said the organisation is hesitant to take away their community’s “lifeline” through the toughest time when people have lost their jobs and loved ones.

“It’s small food for the soul they need to survive…it’s a little bit of hope they have got in their days right now.”

Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter

January 13, 2021

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