Sunday 5 July 2020

The Opening: Church with a difference

Opening - Andrew Rudd, Manchester Cathedral Poet-in-Residence.
The closing of life as we knew it
I was last in church at the Manchester Cathedral on the 8th of March some 17 weeks ago because of global circumstances well beyond our control, but within the ambit of managing, if our government had given a bit more consideration to what the Coronavirus pandemic portended.
I believe the church held services for another Sunday before they put up restrictions on public worship and then soon the nation was put on lockdown barring all social, religious, and most economic activity. My reading of the situation from the day after I was in church was that I belonged in a vulnerable group that needed to take more precautions than were prescribed, I did not receive good enough assurances to attend services again.
For a new beginning
From then on, I tried to attend services on the church’s Facebook page, it remained a means to stay connected with my religious community. On Friday, following the announcement to ease lockdown restrictions, the church published the resumption of services under a COVID-19 sensitive arrangement that was primarily a ticketed event.
I acquired a ticket and was all excited in anticipation for church today. With hand sanitiser and Chinese fan in my bag, along with a facial mask in my pocket that I did not eventually use, I took a brisk walk to church noting that either the campanologists or whatever substitute of the chiming of the bells was not engaged to announce the call to the sanctuary.
A setting like none before
At the door, I showed my invitation and I was ushered in to first use the automated hand sanitiser dispenser and advised to find a seat to occupy. To the right of the altar was a free chair at the very front and without hesitation, I took it.
The chairs were well-spaced out accounting for the required social distancing, except for those occupied by the family social unit. The processional hymn was played through loudspeakers and a live recording was relayed by a tablet device on a tripod to the church’s Facebook Live page.
The Dean presided over the service which dispensed with many of the Anglican traditions of rising to sing, singing out hymns, kneeling to pray, offering bowls passed around or receiving the full gifts of the sacrament of the communion. We did not even have leave to assemble to socialise for tea and coffee after the service. It was a new awkward and unusual dispensation that might run for a while.
A newness to embrace
We did everything sitting down, and whilst we participated in the call-response elements of the service, we placed our offerings in a bowl at the black of the church and only receive the bread of life for communion, the clergy fully protected with facial masks and gloves.
It was a well-attended service, the opening became like when after the flood, Noah sent out a dove to help determine if there was land to which the ark could be brought to rest. The same sentiment was presented in the poem that I took a picture of at the end of the service.
In the newness of the times, may our hopes be rekindled for the celebration of abundant life in the goodness and mercies of the Lord.

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