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Church communion is back on but without wine or hymns

'We can’t have the wine, we’ve been told not to administer as it comes out of the same cup'

09 July, 2020 — By Helen Chapman Dan Carrier and Tom Foot

Father Damian Mason at St Mary’s Brookfield

CHURCHES are reopening their doors for communion, but with no hymns or wine to sip.

While vicars have been keeping in touch with parishioners through social media sermons, the congregation has waited more than three months of lockdown to return to church pews. All places of worship were permitted to hold group sessions from Saturday, as long as people followed physical distancing.

Father Damian Mason at St Mary’s Brookfield in Highgate said: “It’s been a strange situation, to have this beautiful empty church next door that I was not allowed to use. It is moving to see people back, but it is a real change – we can’t sing together.”

The same restrictions are in place at Hampstead Parish Church. “The guidance is that an organ can play, but there will be no singing of hymns,” said the Rev Jeremy Fletcher. “There will be no talking loudly, anything that propels breath from you more than a normal conversation is out.”

He added: “At 8am this Sunday we will be having out first communion. We will have an organ playing. People will be socially distanced, and they will only receive bread. People will be asked to stretch hands out quite a long way.”

Rev Fletcher said the theology of communion was that “God is present in both the bread and the wine”, adding: “So if you have had one element, that is still communion.” He added: “It has been a very creative time. We have had more people on Zoom than come to church. But people’s mental heath has suffered. Wellbeing has been hard to find. We pray that those we have been in contact with will rejoice and come back to church.”

Rev William Gulliford from St Mark’s Church in Primrose Hill

Father Michael Thomas from St Michael’s Church in Camden Town said numbers were low on Sunday with 28 returning. He said: “We usually have about 73 people. That is a mixture of the message has not quite got through yet that churches have reopened, but also there are people who are shielding and no doubt those who are quite fearful for going out.”

The Rev Marjorie Brown from St Mary’s Church in Primrose Hill said: “One of the nicest things is those who have moved away or are shielding can take part. We have a Zoom coffee morning and there were people from France and New Zealand who used to live here and still want to keep in touch. The numbers of people watching online services have been greater than those coming to church before the lockdown.”

She added: “We have had no wedding bookings yet but we are hoping to do a baptism quite soon – we have one booked in September.”

Rev William Gulliford from St Mark’s Church in Primrose Hill said: “The joy of being able to return once more with the congregation was untold. And despite the real sadness of this very worrying time, nothing could obscure our happiness at coming together to praise God in a place which means so much to us.

“It did not matter that the service and sermon were shorter, or that the congregation could not sing. We praised God, and took comfort from the words of our preacher, the Rev Joanna Yates, who helped us see what a time of new beginnings and setting down of all hurts this was to be.”

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