Christmas church services to go ahead as organisers plan with 'caution'
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Festive church services and events are set to go ahead this Christmas, but organisers say they are planning with some degree of caution.
The emergence of the variant and uncertainty over its potential impact has resulted in an uncertain time for people and businesses in the region.
Places of worship were not included in the latest tightening of measures, which saw face coverings made mandatory on public transport and in shops, but leaders hope they will be able to continue their services and events during this period.
Jon Norman, senior pastor at Soul Church in Norwich's Mason Road, said the team plans to continue with the church's Christmas services and in "supporting the local community as normal".
He said people are "desperate for physical community" following the past 18 months and that the church wants to play its part in providing that.
Mr Norman said: "We will be following government guidelines closely but doing everything we can to make sure our doors stay open over this festive season.
"We believe the church is a hospital for people hurting spiritually and emotionally, so we have a duty of care to keep our doors open for people in their times of distress just like we do for physically hurting people."
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The pastor said members of the congregation are given the option of social distancing in a dedicated area of the church if they want to, but has found that the majority of people are "comfortable to worship as normal".
He added: "Online services and small groups are now part of our new normal at Soul Church to make sure we are offering worship and spiritual support to those who don't feel comfortable returning to a physical experience, or maybe those who just want to check us out from a distance."
Soul Church will hold its Wonder Christmas show on Saturday, December 11 and Sunday, December 12, involving eight performances. It will also have its traditional carol services on Christmas Eve at 2pm, 4pm and 6pm.
Elsewhere, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Norwich said preparations for Christmas are proceeding with caution.
Rev Karlene Kerr, team vicar at St Faith's Gaywood in King's Lynn, said they have continued to practise one-metre social distancing in the church and said the new variant means they will be "as vigilant as ever".
Following a risk assessment, the church is only able to hold a maximum of 80 people for each service, whereas normally it would accommodate more than 100.
She said: "We cannot relax the restrictions. Our plans have not changed, our carol services are still going ahead with attendees requested to book in advance.
“There are no plans at present to reintroduce two-metre social distancing. The majority of our services occur in church and online simultaneously."
The vicar said the clergy and congregation at St Faith’s are hoping the world is "at the back end of the pandemic".
She added: "There is a sense of pandemic/Covid fatigue – when will it end?
"However, we are called to lead our flock in all weathers, and a part of this is to inspire and encourage hope.
"We communicate to our congregation that they must trust that God is with us in the midst of it all, that we care deeply and that no one is alone in these frustrating times. We stand together – holding and carrying each other.”
And Rev Helen Lynch, assistant curate at Great Yarmouth Team Ministry, said they have continued to make the services "as safe as possible" and have been running live streams to allow people to join in from home.
The church has had to change its Christingle service to a trail instead, which families can take part in within their own bubbles.
The Fountain of Life Church in Ashill, near Watton, is continuing with its live Nativity on December 11.
The Aylsham and District Team is currently holding an Advent Angel trail for its local schools and churches.
And St Thomas Church in Norwich is delivering 'parcels of hope' to support those vulnerable in its community.