Church is Changing – COVID-19

20th March 2020

The cross stands firm while the world is turning: cathedrals – #ChurchIsChanging

Cathedrals are reaching out to their communities in new and creative ways with plans for 360 degree virtual online tours, online prayer requests, online daily organ recitals, cafes offering a click and collect service, Facebook support groups, and trying to stay open for people to be able to use the space safely for prayer and reflection during these unprecedented times.

From Wednesday all public worship was put on hold on the advice of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York with a promise that church would not shut up shop but would become radically different – three days in and cathedrals are seeing growing virtual congregations.

Today (Friday) is St Cuthbert’s Day in whose honour Durham Cathedral was built, and to mark this day and this great northern saint, Durham will live stream a special St Cuthbert Day Service at 7pm and is inviting people to join them from their computers and smartphones.

Like many cathedrals, Durham is using digital technology to live stream its worship and opening its doors throughout the day to welcome in visitors while adhering to strict hygiene and national health guidelines for social distancing.

The Very Reverend, Andrew Tremlett, Dean of Durham, said of the change:

“On a day-by-day basis, we have been responding, as has the whole country, to changes which will have an immediate impact on our daily lives. It is a time of great uncertainty, but what has already become apparent is the resilience and tenacity of the cathedral community in the face of adversity.

“It is this determination and display of enduring faith that is driving our efforts to adapt our daily worship, so that we can continue to meet the community’s need for spiritual guidance and support, ” he added.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral has been live streaming its services through Facebook live since Sunday, it has posted a live video of a candle in one of its chapels for ‘Silent Meditation’, its organists are recording daily organ recitals for our social media followers paired with liturgical words and it is managing to keep open its restaurant with new spacing and heightened hygiene.

On Thursday Ripon Cathedral live streamed Evening Prayer on its YouTube channel. More than 220 people viewed that service; 15 joining in live and now over 70 have signed up for the service which promises to live stream daily prayers and Sunday worship.

Exeter Cathedral is livestreaming its Sunday service via the Diocese of Exeter YouTube channel. Choristers at Peterborough Cathedral have recorded hymns for sharing with grandparents this coming Mothering Sunday, Ely Cathedral will livestream its Mothering Sunday service too, and has begun to upload daily reflections to its Facebook page.

Newcastle – which has had to close as current major building work has reduced its space so much it cannot guarantee visitors can observe the advised 2 metres social distance to be safe – has also announced it will be uploading reflections, prayers and live streaming some services.

It is also offering resources for its Junior Church members to use while church is closed.

Truro has set up a online prayer request service for people to fill out on its website with the prayers offered up in morning prayer, Chester Cathedral is live streaming some services and is planning to record others.

Watch Choral Evensong from Chester Cathedral on the link below.

Bristol is live streaming all its services to its Facebook page and is seeing increased numbers of people joining in its services.

Canon Michael Johnson, Acting Dean of Bristol:

“We are live streaming our services. The early indication is that many more people are using this option than would habitually attend in person. We have found, through the feedback that we are receiving, that people are appreciating and are feeling supported by being a part of a virtual congregation. We are also doing what we can to care for the Cathedral congregation, by keeping in touch, largely by phone, but using other means as well as the need arises.
“This is a challenging time for the whole world, but a time when we can keep helping our neighbour as best we can and continuing to pray, confident in a God of love and hope.”

Bradford Cathedral has set up a facebook group to support its community, respond to prayer requests, and plans to live stream and record some of its services and messages from its clergy. It is also planning on uploading 360 degree virtual tours of its building for people to visit online.

Wakefield has it’s own YouTube channel already where it regularly uploads all its services.

Blackburn Cathedral is streaming its services and providing weekly resources for worship at home and for parents and carers to use with children. all these can be accessed by signing up to the service on their website. The Cathedral is open daily from 10 – 4 for private prayer and also for food donations as they are a Foodbank collection hub.

And this week their cafe – Checks and Greys which had to close due to the COVID-19 outbreak has re-opened, it is now providing a click and collect service for affordable homemade oven ready meals.

COVID-19 has brought huge changes to our national way of life in a very short time. Most of our cathedrals have cancelled all their events until May, most have stood down their volunteers and closed their cafes and shops, but all of them are responding to these testing times in new and imaginative ways so that regular worshippers, or those who need to connect afresh with God at this time, can do so, wherever they may be.

York Minster, Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s have all had to close due to their high visitor numbers and events – but all are exploring ways of engaging differently.

The rest of our cathedrals remain open for private prayer – but it is essential that people follow the Government and NHS guidance on self-isolation, particularly if they are symptomatic or fall within one of the high-risk categories before visiting. For those who do come, they must observe best hygiene practices and follow the current advice on social distancing.

The Dean of Peterborough, the Very Revd Chris Dalliston, sums it up when he reminds us of the words on the great crucifix suspended on high in Peterborough Cathedral: “the cross stands firm whilst the world is turning”.

He said:

“These are very testing times for all of us, but the message from the Cathedral is clear. Worship and prayer will continue here day by day as they have done for centuries, through good times and bad. The doors remain open and you are welcome to come here quietly to pray. Abide by Government advice but stay connected – you can keep up with any live streaming of services, or any blog posts, through our social media and website. Also, keep looking out for those who may be in need, and help where you can do so safely.

“Above all we need to stand together in solidarity and prayer, recalling God’s steadfast love for all his people.

“As the words on the great crucifix in the Cathedral remind us, “the cross stands firm whilst the world is turning”.

Check in with your cathedral via its website and social media. Details of every cathedral, their website and social media channels can be found here.