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Starting to Open Up

by Michael Ford last modified 20 Jun, 2020 08:27 AM

The change in the Government's guidance last week means that those of our churches, that are able to do so safely, can now open for private prayer.

Those who have been able to open up for a few hours each day or at set times during the week have found themselves negotiating the long list of measures that they need to put in place to keep us all safe.

They have been transforming their buildings into one way paths, with only a small percentage of their seating in use, and the same amount of effort was taken whether the church building was big or small.

Canon Richard Hancock, our Rural Field Officer for Dorset commented on social media:

"I have spent the morning with our Churchwarden and Treasurer getting St Mary's Sixpenny Handley open for private prayer. The church is now OPEN!"

The Revd Kelvin Inglis from St Thomas' Church in Salisbury posted:

"Open for prayer for just a couple of hours daily for now - we've used our moveable seating to make a sort of labyrinth."

But in multi-parish benefices, not every church will be able to open up safely:

The Revd Canon David Baldwin from the Beaminster Area Team of Churches told his community:

"Unfortunately there are 3 of our churches that are unable to open immediately as we have no one who is able to prepare and clean the churches at the moment."

But where churches did open, they found people were grateful to once again come into church to pray.

The Team later posted on their page:

"At 11.00 am this morning I opened the doors of St Mary's Beaminster for the first time in 79 days to allow our community to come in and say their prayers. The first person to arrive was lady who had never been in the church before followed by a small but steady flow of people all very happy to adhere to the guidelines on social distancing and cleansing which are in place. Everyone was just happy to be in a place where they find comfort and spiritual tranquility."

But not everyone has opened up straight away. St Mary's Dorchester posted on Facebook to say:

"In line with government and diocesan guidelines, we will be opening St Mary’s for private prayer starting on Tuesday 23rd of June from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and on Thursday 25th from 2 - 4pm. In order to make sure the church is safe we decided to delay opening until next week as we are preparing the church in accordance with the government and diocesan guidelines. There will be stewards in attendance, but if you have any concerns or questions please do contact us."

Writing to all clergy and licensed lay minsters, Bishop Nicholas made it clear that it would be up to individual churches to make a decision about whether or not they would be able to open within the published guidelines.

He said:

"Please take the time that is needed for local decision in keeping with the latest guidance. Church buildings may open for private prayer but it is not a requirement that they do so."

He said he hoped that ministry teams and their communities would "experience this first relaxation from the ‘lockdown’ as an encouragement" but he added it was "not a demand for you and your church to do what may, in some places, be impossible."

The Bishop noted that throughout our Diocese, churches were taking a variety of approaches:

"Some are planning to open for a few hours each day, others once or twice a week to reduce the need for cleaning on the basis that the virus does not survive for more than 72 hours without a body to host it."

The government guidance can be viewed here.

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