Most churches in the Western Isles today (Sunday 22 March) observed Government  guidance on gatherings in public places, with most closed for services and many opting for online prayer and worship.

Denominational bodies including the Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic bishops including the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles have issued advice to congregations asking them to cease church activity including services, mass and prayer or fellowship meetings.

But island residents complained on social media that some churches in Lewis are continuing to gather, in defiance of health guidance which requires people to distance themselves even from close family members to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

And the discovery that some in the Christian community are continuing to allow gatherings when all other public buildings are closed has led to calls for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and politicians to intervene to prevent such gatherings.

One islander said: “Church services simply cannot be taking place. I understand the spiritual need that is so important for some, but this needs changed as of now and most churches have put online options in place. The council leaders need to get involved and lead on this.”

Some chose to directly address the churches in question. One sent a private message to a church organisation saying: “I am in disbelief to hear there was a church service in Sandwick today. I assume you are all well aware of the Government’s advice.

“You are putting your congregation, your community, your island at risk. Please reconsider your actions. You do not have to congregate in a church to worship God.”