Published on Sat, 15 Aug 2020 14:17

The Revd Canon Edward Carter, Vicar at St Peter Mancroft, writes: Our pattern of worship has been severely disrupted over the past five months, with an enforced move online, and then a gradual return to church since 5th July. People have asked me when we’ll be back to normal, and I know some are anxious about what’s planned. The truth is, there are still significant restrictions in place, about numbers, about cleaning between services, about wearing masks, and about the use of music in particular. What’s more, the virus has not hit Norwich badly yet, and we don’t really know what will happen if and when it does so. The safety of everyone involved in our church life must be our top priority, and I would be heartbroken if anyone at all was imperilled in any way.

So our return to ‘normal’ is actually a series of small steps, and September will see the next of those. Now that we have the capacity to do high quality live-streaming from church, we are moving the 10.00am Sunday service back from ministers’ homes, where it’s been since mid-March, to the church building itself. This will have scope for a congregation of up to about 50, but will also be broadcast online for those still unable to come to church in person. We’ll be opening the church from 9.00am for an hour of quietness and private prayer. Alongside this, we are for now going to continue with the 12.00noon outside service, and, given its popularity, we’re also going to continue with the 2.30pm service in church, which will not be broadcast. The intention is to have one of the 10.00am and 2.30pm as a Eucharist, and the other non-Eucharistic. On Sundays the church will be shut between 11.00am and 2.00pm to allow for the cleaning materials to take proper effect. In addition, from 7th September there will be a new but in many ways familiar pattern of short services at 1.00pm every Monday to Friday. This enhances and in a way replaces the old daily 1 o’clock prayers. The Tuesday service will be a contemporary language Communion, and the Thursday service a BCP Communion, while the others will take up some of the themes that are important to us as a church in the heart of the city. 

I hope we can recommence the Wednesday early Communion with breakfast soon, but for now my judgement is that this would be too much of a risk – it’s so good to know that those who attend regularly have been continuing the pattern of bringing prayer requests to God each week, from home. I also realise that for now the lack of an 8.00am Sunday service will be a sadness for some (me included). However, the guidance is quite clear that having services open to the general public in close succession and without a significant gap for cleaning and disinfecting is to be avoided. In fact with singing not yet allowed, much of our worship through the week will feel rather like the 8.00am.

Coping with such a huge disruption to our worship has been exhausting for me, and probably for you as well. I wish I could promise we are nearly through it all, but we do need to be cautious as we strive for safety as well as reverent services. I believe these plans for September strike that balance, and we are constantly reviewing the latest guidance as well as learning from experience. The joyful thing has been seeing new members of our congregation join the church through all of this, perhaps because of some of the new things we’ve started offering. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. 

Questions you may have:

Do I have to wear a mask in church at all times? Yes; only a few people involved in leading services may temporarily remove their mask in a closely controlled manner.

I love singing when worshipping; how can I do this at the moment? It’s not permitted for anyone other than a professional singer acting as a solo cantor to sing at a public act of worship, but it’s fine to sing at home as part of our 10.00am live-streamed service.

I’ve always attended the 8.00am Sunday service, so how can I worship now? We hope the 8.00am Sunday service can safely be restored soon, but for now many of our services have a quieter feel, and from 10th September there’s a BCP Communion every Thursday at 1.00pm.

I’ve always attended Evensong – why isn’t it re-starting? Choral singing isn’t permitted yet, but the 2.30pm Sunday service has a similar feel, with lovely organ music.

I enjoy a thoughtful sermon – which service should I attend? There will be sermons at the 10.00am and 2.30pm Sunday services, and the 1.00pm weekday services will sometimes have thoughtful, reflective content. There are also lots of things on the Mancroft YouTube channel, as well as elsewhere on the web.

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