A fire will be lit in front of Ripon Cathedral this Saturday from which the Easter Candle will be set alight and carried into the darkened church to mark their first public service – a symbol of resurrection for all our cathedrals as they begin their slow and careful journey back towards full life and ministry. They are #GoodToGo.
Fire-lighting, beacons of hope, #GoodtoGo, and a new work of art to challenge us all in these unprecedented times: Cathedrals on their slow and careful journey back after lockdown.
In St Albans, a version of the Last Supper with Jesus as a black man is being displayed in support of Black Lives Matter in a space set aside for reflection and prayer. Visitors will be able to see the high-resolution print of Lorna May Wadsworth’s nine-foot take on the 15th century Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece when the cathedral reopens its doors on July 4.
And Gloucester Cathedral has launched its Beacon of Hope campaign with the fantastic news that the £1m fundraising campaign has been kickstarted with a £250k donation. Gloucester aims to raise the funds by Christmas to ensure the cathedral can play a key role at the heart of the city and the county’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Dean of Gloucester, the Very Reverend Stephen Lake, said:
“We are hugely grateful to the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust for their extraordinarily generous donation. Like most charities, the Cathedral has been hit hard by COVID-19. Yet, at a time when so many lives have been turned upside down, our aim is not to step back, but to step up. Rather than wait for things to get better, our plan is to reach out, embrace our community and heal.
“This is a wonderful way to launch our ‘Beacon of Hope’ appeal which will ensure that your Cathedral sits at the heart of the recovery across the city, county and diocese,” he added.
Chichester, Exeter, Winchester, Worcester, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s, St Edmundsbury, Truro, Norwich, Coventry, Southwell, Portsmouth, Gloucester, Manchester and Salisbury Cathedrals are all poised to re-open for worship on July 5.
Hereford on July 6.
Salisbury also plans an opening up for visitors and tourism on July 8.
Many cathedrals will operate an online booking system to support the NHS Track and Trace system – so please check individual websites.
The Dean of Exeter, the Very Revd Jonathan Greener, said:
“There’s something special about praying in a building which has been prayed in daily for 800 years: it just feels very right. And worship of course is a shared activity, so it will be wonderful to gather together again to praise God. And to celebrate the Holy Communion, which is such an essential part of our life together.”
Wakefield, Bristol, Peterborough, Guildford, Lichfield and Southwark are working towards offering some public worship from, or after, 12 July.
Ely, Chelmsford, Guildford, Southwark and Birmingham Cathedrals are planning to open for the first time for private prayer and reflection from July 4.
And Birmingham will open on Monday (6 July) for the first time and the Dean, the Very Revd Matt Thompson said:
“This reopening is the first phase of re-engaging physically with our community, our city and our region … The building will be open for limited hours each day and my clergy colleagues and I will be offering pastoral support in the building for an hour each day.”
So that means that from this weekend, most of our cathedrals have been able to open up for private prayer and reflection –with many of them now working towards the next phase of being able to open for public worship following the latest Government guidelines.
But this is a gentle and slow return – as and when they can. That journey back started last month when each cathedral began to develop its own strategy – and most include limiting the number of people inside at any one time, the removal of all leaflets and hymn books, much reduced if no seating, hand sanitisers, new signage to remind people of the health and safety messaging around social distancing and keeping safe, and for some cathedrals a one-way system.
And many cathedrals – including Rochester, Southwark, York Minster, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s and Chester – have signed up to the Visit England/Visit Britain Good to Go industry standard charter campaign to say they have fulfilled the required health and safety processes to provide a ‘ring of confidence’ for visitors and tourists.
Please check their individual websites for up to date details of their opening plans. And when visiting, please follow the Government’s guidance, which includes practicing social distancing, and remember that if you or a member of your household are unwell, stay at home.