Slowly and Safely Reopening

Preparations got underway and measures were put in place for private prayer and reflection – the first phase of re-opening.

June saw the start of our slow journey to re-open safely after ten weeks in lockdown.

Each cathedral began to develop its own strategy – but most included limiting the number of people inside at any one time, the removal of all leaflets, much reduced seating, hand sanitisers at appropriate points, new signage to remind people of the health and safety messages around social distancing, and for some cathedrals, a one-way system to keep people safe.

It signalled the start of the journey to re-opening for all our cathedrals as and when they are ready to do so.

Elsewhere cathedrals began to look at what recovery might look like as they counted the cost of being in lockdown. York Minster announced it was closing its Minster School, Chichester closed its café, Chester announced plans to close its Falconry and Nature Gardens, and Worcester announced the lockdown had cost it £25,000 in lost revenue.

National Volunteer Week this month was celebrated online with many cathedrals organising tea parties, cream teas, services and virtual get-togethers as they said a huge thank you to that unsung army of volunteers without whom our cathedrals would be so much less.

Chichester Cathedral launched its first virtual pilgrimage to its historic shrine of St Richard to mark St Richards Day and the popular St Alban Pilgrimage went online too this month with a host of activities, arts and crafts – and welcomed 6,500 people to its live stream.

In peregrine news, the public of Salisbury voted and chose names for their four new chicks, Ely Cathedral announced a pair of peregrine falcons had made their home there, and Winchester announced its five chicks had taken flight this month.

Salisbury Cathedral Peregrine chicks - Osmund

Every Thursday many of our cathedrals have continued to light up blue for the NHS and all health and social care workers.

Lincoln and Rochester Cathedrals both lit up green to mark St John’s Day and to celebrate the work of the charity St John Ambulance.

And Guildford was able to light up red white and blue for Armed Forces Day thanks to a unique partnership between Peachy Productions Ltd, a Surrey-based events company that has been lighting up the cathedral every Thursday night during lockdown, and the Aldershot Town Football Club and the Woking Asian Business Forum.

The Dean of Guildford, the Very Reverend Dianna Gwilliams, said:

“It has been an enormous privilege for the Cathedral to be lit blue every Thursday for almost three months, to thank those in the health profession and other key workers who have given so much on our behalf in hospitals and amongst the community during this worrying time.

“Now we have an opportunity to thank our Armed Forces in a similar way, and pay tribute to the men and women, as well as their families, who sacrifice so much to ensure that our country is safe and secure at all times.”

As the month neared its end, the Government announced churches and cathedrals could start to open for public worship from 4 July as long as they adhered to the very latest guidelines on safety and hygiene – this also included allowing weddings and funerals with no more than 30 people as long as it is safe to do so.

Many cathedrals were looking forward to returning to some form of new normality this weekend when Leicester became the UK’s first full local lockdown city as coronavirus cases rose there.

This meant Leicester Cathedral (pictured) went back into lockdown and served as a harsh reminder that we are in fact still in the grips of a pandemic with a long way to go yet. Stay safe everyone.