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Balancing old church with new church - what will be different about places of worship from July 4?

PUBLISHED: 09:21 03 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:21 03 July 2020

Rev Canon Edward Carter, vicar at St Peter Mancroft, in the church as it is made ready to welcome people back to services this weekend. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Rev Canon Edward Carter, vicar at St Peter Mancroft, in the church as it is made ready to welcome people back to services this weekend. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2020

New service times, registering who is attending and a continued presence online are some of the steps being taken by places of worship as they prepare to reopen.

Rev Canon Edward Carter, vicar at St Peter Mancroft, in the church as it is made ready to welcome people back to services this weekend. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYRev Canon Edward Carter, vicar at St Peter Mancroft, in the church as it is made ready to welcome people back to services this weekend. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Religious leaders preparing to lead their first services in three months said aspects of life will be different under the new guidelines which impact traditional elements of services, which have had to be adapted or are not permissible for the time being.

The Rev Andrew Whithead, vicar of the Cawston group, which oversees the parishes of Cawston, Oulton, Heydon and Haveringland, says it is continuing the balance of old church and new church.

He has also has been overseeing the different challenges facing each parish, from the size of church restricting the number of people who can attend services to the unavailability of volunteers due to shielding.

From Sunday, he will lead one service at 9am, rotating between Cawston, Oulton and Haveringland once a month. Previously morning services took place at all three churches at the same time, but due to many retired clergy and lay persons who would take the services remaining at home, he is utilising a shorter physical service with the continuation of the pre-recorded service at 10.30am, allowing those who wish to stay at home to stay connected.

The Revd Andrew Whitehead, Vicar of Cawston Parish Church, filming a service inside the church  Picture: Rebecca WhiteheadThe Revd Andrew Whitehead, Vicar of Cawston Parish Church, filming a service inside the church Picture: Rebecca Whitehead

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Mr Whithead said: “We have been talking about how do we want our church to be in the future.

“One parishioner has said online worship has been a lifeline through lockdown because she can stay in touch with people and there is spiritual support in a time that has been very scary for lots of people.

“I think for many parishes it is a really good time to take stock and say because we used to do that doesn’t mean it is what we should do.”

He said one element that would be different would be registering the names of those attending services, in the case of an outbreak that would require a person to be traced.

Rev Andrew Whitehead at the Cawston Walking Nativity 2019.
Picture: Neil Perry / ArchantRev Andrew Whitehead at the Cawston Walking Nativity 2019. Picture: Neil Perry / Archant

He said “It is going to be strange, it is going to be different.

“There will be those who come to 9am physical service and go home and online for the 10.30am service, as that has singing and they are different from each other.

“We are trying to balance old church with new church.”

Guidelines have also set out restrictions strongly advising against the sharing of food and drink, as seen in service elements such as holy communion.

The Right Reverend Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, kneels beside the crosses commemorating the lives lost to Coronavirus in the County of Norfolk. Photograph: Norwich Cathedral/Bill SmithThe Right Reverend Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, kneels beside the crosses commemorating the lives lost to Coronavirus in the County of Norfolk. Photograph: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith

Some churches will offer holy communion in bread form only, with strict instructions and one way systems in place to maintains social distancing.

Places of worship are also working out how to maintain strict cleaning of the church, which at many rural churches is carried out by volunteers over the age of 70.

At Cawston, they have chosen to follow scientific data and after a church is used, it will be left for 72 hours to “clean itself” before it is opened again.

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The same process will be applied to any cash donations left, which will be handled by a someone wearing gloves after 72 hours.

The Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: Diocese of NorwichThe Bishop of Norwich the Rt Rev Graham Usher. Picture: Diocese of Norwich

Also from Saturday, funerals, weddings and other life events will be able to take place inside places of worship but is limited to just 30 people. Mr Whithead hopes that when lockdown is eased further, those that have had to adapt services due to coronavirus may return to hear eulogies in full or hold a blessing for their marriage.

At St Peter Mancroft, in Norwich, its social distancing measures will see parishioners sitting every third pew, allowing a maximum capacity of 60 people.

The Rev Edward Carter, who will also light the Easter candle for the first time at the service, said: “Being able to worship in church for the first time for three months is going to be very moving and emotional we are going to following all of the guidance.

“This is still an unusual time we are in and we are not back to normal. It will feel very different.”

West front of Norwich Cathedral sen through the Erpingham Gate. Photograph: Norwich Cathedral/Bill SmithWest front of Norwich Cathedral sen through the Erpingham Gate. Photograph: Norwich Cathedral/Bill Smith

Throughout July and August the church’s usual morning Sunday service will now be held at 2.30pm, and will continue to be open for individual private prayer seven days a week.

The church will be able to operate a one way system where congregation members enter through one door and exit through another.

In Great Yarmouth, the latest relaxation of the rules will enable St Mary’s Church, Regent Road, to reopen for mass services six days a week.

St Ignatius, in Caister, will reopen for a 5pm mass on Sunday and St Edmunds, in Acle, will reopen but not in time for Saturday. Instead, services will be held at the Anglican Church.

In a message to clergy and congregation, the Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich, said the expectation should be that everything will not happen everywhere immediately.

He said; “My clear advice for the Diocese of Norwich remains, as it has at each stage of the unlocking, that we move forward slowly, steadily and safely.

This is the next step on what is likely to be a long journey. We must continue to do everything we can to limit the spread of the virus to protect each other, especially the most vulnerable, as we seek to ‘love our neighbours’.”


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