Silent hymns and hazard tape as Sunday services in church resume
Some churches in Devon have held their first services in their buildings since March following a change in the Government’s coronavirus guidance.
At St Mary’s Church in Bickington, near Newton Abbot, people started arriving for the 9am Communion service half an hour before it started.
Parishioner Michael Eveley said “We were ready for this,” and said it was a shame it would not be possible to sing hymns.
Inside the historic church other changes included small bottles of hand sanitiser at the door, hazard tape marking which pews people could sit on and red arrows on the floor to help people observe social distancing.
During the service, the organist Hannah Findlay also sang the songs, so the congregation didn’t miss out completely on hearing the hymns after so many months away.
Afterwards she said of the service, “I really enjoyed it. We’ve been doing online services, which are good.
“But I didn’t realise how much I missed being here until it happened.
“There’s a bit of nervous anxiety about all the new arrangements, but there’s been a great turn-out, lots of people really keen to be back in the building.”
Register of names
During the Communion part of the service, people queued up to be given a wafer.
The distribution of wine in the shared “common cup” is not permitted at the moment.
One woman in the congregation said “It was lovely and very well organised.”
Down the A38 in Buckfastleigh, local farmer and churchwarden, Lyn Thomas, was writing down people’s names as they entered St Luke’s Church, in case they need to be contacted by the Government’s Track and Trace scheme.
There was also a queuing system, with members of the congregation being shown to their seats “like at the cinema”.
After the service of morning prayer Lyn said “It was easier than I thought it was going to be, although some people wanted to sit in their ‘usual’ seats.
“We did need to do a lot of preparation beforehand.”
She said it was “lovely, absolutely wonderful” to be back in the church.
“Being able to worship together was fantastic.”
“Excitement and worry”
The Team Vicar, the Reverend Tom Benson, admitted he was more nervous about doing his first service back in the building than he had been doing a live online service for the first time.
“It’s that mixture of the familiar and the same and not the same.
“It’s the excitement of seeing people and the worry of keeping them safe.
“But I found it a joyful experience, there was a real prayerful sense of being together.”
Rev’d Benson said many regular members of the church had not been there and that online services would be continuing so no-one was excluded.
Afterwards he and his curate, the Reverend Laura McAdam, rushed off to take part in a Zoom coffee morning with the wider church community.
Under the current guidance people are discouraged from staying too long after church and sharing refreshments.
A number of churches in Devon have not yet resumed Sunday services in their buildings, but around 80% say they are planning to in the next few weeks.
97% also say they will continue online services alongside physical ones.