Churches across the Diocese of Durham have started to open their doors for Public Worship and for Private Prayer following the changes in lockdown on the 4th July.
On the first Sunday (July 5th), after the restrictions were loosened, several churches in the diocese reported bigger congregations than had been seen before the lockdown began back in March.
The Revd Gemma Sampson, Priest In Charge at St Aidanâ€™s in Hartlepool said:
â€œWe reopened on the first Sunday and welcomed in new people and had the best attendance weâ€™ve had at any mass since I can remember!
â€œIt was a brilliant experience and people commented on how safe they felt so, all round, it was great! – What a blessing.â€
The Revd Jacqui Tyson, Associate Priest at Sunderland Minster said:
â€œWe opened for morning prayer (as opposed to private prayer). The first public act of worship for 4 months. I tweeted about it and over a dozen people messaged me to ask for prayers in church.â€
Whilst some churches were able to reopen, others decided that they needed to wait a little longer before they could reopen and many continued their online streaming and acts of worship, some even reopening and streaming as well.
One such church was St Matthew’s and St Wilfrid’ in Sunderland, where Area Dean Revd David Tolhurst commented: â€œWe opened on the 5th and it was an emotional experience for all, the Eucharist was powerful as we prayed for the future and spent time in silence remembering those who had lost their lives to the Coronavirus.
â€œWeeks of risk assessments and rearranging furniture and marking floors were well spent as we celebrated both Eucharist and Evensong.
â€œWe are keenly aware that many cannot or are not confident to join us yet and so we are committed to live-streaming into the future.â€
In Norton, The Revd Martin Anderson took to the St Maryâ€™s Church Facebook Page to deliver a welcome back to Church video the previous week outlining how the church was open and safe for private prayer, demonstrating the layout of the church and precautions that they had put in place to keep people safe.
Revd Gemma will welcome the Rt Revd Paul Butler Bishop of Durham to St Aidanâ€™s this coming Sunday 12th at 10:45 am for what will be his first public service inside a church since lockdown.
Bishop Paul said: â€œIâ€™m really looking forward to being with Revd Gemma and her congregation at St Aidanâ€™s this Sunday. Whilst I have been involved in online worship regularly in a range of ways this will be my first public service in a physical church building since March. Over the coming weeks, it will be normal for there to be a range of churches open and others remaining closed. Online worship will be continuing, and in some form is likely to be with us to stay.â€