Some churches are preparing to open for this weekend, as the easing of the lockdown takes effect.
Wells Cathedral will be open for a vigil on Saturday, but others will begin by with a service on Sunday morning.
Rev Graham Owen, rural dean of Frome deanery and vicar of Frome Town Group ministry said Holy Trinity church would open for Holy Communion at 9am on Sunday morning.
There will be no music or singing, and with many in the congregation over 70, many will stay away, he says. He will continue to offer an online service at 11am for those who can’t come.
“I’m not naturally an online person, I much prefer human beings being together. I do the online because it is very important, but I am just desperate to see people’s faces in three dimensions and their smiles, their body language and just to speak in a different way from what’s possible when you are doing an online service,” he said.
The service will be kept very simple, as will the welcome. “We’re very fortunate we have flexible seating, it’s a very easy space to keep clean. We are not opening up any other facilities it is just the worship space. We open at the front doors to the street, we’re not opening up the church hall, we’re not opening up the kitchen, we’re not doing teas and coffees and things like that. So in many ways it’s very simple, but we haven’t done it for three months.”
At the Minster Church in Illminster, there will be two services offered on Sunday morning – but Rev Jo Stobart is also keeping the online facebook service ‘Church where you are’ at 5pm on Sundays. For the morning service, capacity is limited to 15 families or household ‘bubbles’ and people have been asked to book. She said: “Whilst its been a huge joy worshipping with others online and meeting fellow Christians in this way, I think myself and many of the congregation here – especially those who don’t have access to the internet – are delighted to be able to gather together to worship God in a building that is very much loved.”
St John’s in Bridgewater will also be holding a service at 10.30am on Sunday morning. The church has been prepared and a PowerPoint presentation is available to explain to those who want to attend the rules to observe; where to sanitise their hands, where to sit to maintain social distancing, and how to follow the one-way system.
Revd Lis Sparrow says: “Many people are desperate to come back and celebrate together, so we are expecting quite a few people, but it will be a very simple service with a little organ music. We are planning to mark this time properly later in the year, perhaps at harvest time, when restrictions may have changed.”
Other churches will open for services over the next few weeks. The Church of England has published guidance to help churches think through the reopening, which is available here.