Devon churches prepare to open for prayer
Churches across Devon are preparing to open their buildings following changes to the Government guidance on places of worship.
People are now be able to enter some of the county’s 600 churches for private prayer.
Funerals can also take place in churches from 15 June and most parishes are waiting until Monday or later to open to allow time for physical distancing measures to be put in place.
Around half of vicars in Devon who took part in an online poll said they were planning to open at least one of their church buildings next week.
Guidance about physical distancing
Church buildings were closed completely in March as part of the coronavirus lockdown.
The Church of England has issued detailed public health guidance for churches about physical distancing and cleaning.
It will be up to individual churches to decide how many people can be in the church at a time.
Father Nick Debney, from St Luke’s Church, Newton Abbot, said he was delighted that churches could now open.
“A church building exists to serve the community and for a while they had to be closed.
“To be open again is a move in the right direction.
“There is a sense that the lockdown has helped us reconnect prayer with the home, now is a chance to reconnect prayer with the house of God.
At the moment people are still not able to gather in church buildings for services, including weddings.
Prayer ideas in churches
The Right Reverend Mark Rylands, from the Ashburton and Moorland Mission Community, is planning to open several of the churches under his care.
On Saturday, he and a team of volunteers from St Andrews Church, Ashburton, and the town’s Covid Emergency Response Team were busy cleaning the church building inside and getting it ready to open.
As well as hand sanitiser and guidelines about physical distancing, there will also be “prayer stations” around the church offering creative ideas about how to pray.
He said: “People have missed being able to come into church and spend time praying or reflecting.
“For some people it is a spiritual yearning. God welcomes everybody for prayer.”
St Raphael’s Church on Dartmoor is a popular destination for tourists and day visitors.
For that reason the churchwarden, Tony Parker, is planning to open it on Mondays and Thursdays to allow time for cleaning in between.
“It’s not either/or when it comes to church in buildings or online”
The Reverend Tanya Hockley-Still from St Mark’s Church in Exeter said she was planning to follow a similar pattern, opening for a couple of hours twice a week.
Exeter Cathedral is also opening from noon on Monday, with a limit of 55 visitors at a time.
During the lockdown there has been a surge in the number of people taking part in online church services.
Both Nick Debney and Mark Rylands have been broadcasting live and recorded services online via Facebook and Youtube.
Nick said for him it is not “either/or” when it comes to worship online or in church.
“It’s AND. They are all tools in our mission toolkit to reach people,” he said.