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All Souls’ Day adapted to the 2020 bereaved

30 October 2020

A time of remembrance, after restrictions on funeral attendance


OUTDOOR services, a field of crosses, prayer walks, and light displays are among the ways in which churches in England plan to mark All Souls’ Day under the current coronavirus restrictions. Particular attention is being paid to the needs of the bereaved who, for example, were unable to attend a loved one’s funeral because of the lockdown.

On Sunday, the weekly online service from the Church of England will be one of “thanksgiving, hope, and remembrance”. It will be broadcast at 9 a.m. from St Paul’s Cathedral, and will be led by the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally.

That evening, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Ely, Exeter, Salisbury, Lichfield, and Liverpool Cathedrals plan to project beams of light into the night sky as part of the Light of Hope 2020 art installation, to mark both All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. Crosses of light will also be projected on to the interiors of Ely and Lichfield Cathedrals.

On Monday, York Minster is to hold its annual All Souls’ Day requiem, at which a special candle will be lit for those who have died during the pandemic. Visitors to Salisbury Cathedral are invited to light a candle and dedicate a flower in memory of the departed, as part of an arrangement that will remain in place during the All Souls’ service.

The Archbishops’ Council’s Head of Welcome and Life Events, Canon Sandra Millar, said on Monday: “Whether we have been bereaved this year or long ago, it can be very helpful to have a special moment when we remember all those who have shaped our lives and whom we see no longer.

“This year, churches are creatively giving people opportunities to take that moment, whether physically, digitally, or in the quiet of their homes. For some, this will be immensely important if they didn’t get to a funeral this year; for others, it will be a chance to remember once again those who were special.”

The Vicar of St Nicholas’s, Gosforth, in Newcastle diocese, the Revd Jane Nattrass, has invited the community to join a socially distanced walk on Sunday through the churchyard, where people will be invited to light a candle and leave prayers for the departed in its memorial garden. It will be a “poignant” opportunity to express grief and sadness, especially given the current limits on funerals, she said.

Outside St Mary’s, Madresfield, in Worcestershire, 150 crosses with inscriptions are to be planted to create a “field of memories”, representing the estimated 150 funerals held in churches, crematoria, and cemeteries in the Greater Malvern area during the pandemic.

The Rector of Powick, Guarlford and Madresfield with Newland, the Revd Gary Crellin, explained: “I hope that the sight of 150 crosses in a small country churchyard will give people the opportunity to pause and give thanks for the lives of people they love but they no longer see. . .

“It is really important, as we journey through this Covid pandemic, to simply pause and remember the funerals that we have had this year, often in difficult and trying circumstances.”

The Team Rector of Beaconsfield, the Revd Dr Jeremy Brooks, has set up 12 prayer stations in the grounds of St Mary’s, Beaconsfield, until 6 November. He said: “We know that the All Souls’ Day services inside our church buildings may not be able to accommodate all the people who want to attend because of physical distancing. We felt it was very important that people could take part in an outdoor event in their own time.”

Plans for other days in the Church’s calendar are also being announced. Next Thursday, the Children’s Society is to host a free webinar for churches on how Christingle services might also be adapted under current restrictions.

A spokeswoman for the charity, Tracey Messenger, said: “At the end of what has been a dark year for many families, Christingle is a wonderful opportunity to shine a light of hope. We may not all be able to meet one another as we would traditionally, but, with the power of technology, we can certainly still bring people together and celebrate. This webinar is a unique opportunity to learn how to keep the spirit of Christingle alive, by doing things a little bit differently.”

Churches and cathedrals are beginning to plan for a “Christmas like no other” in line with the Church of England’s Comfort and Joy campaign this year (News, 9 October).

The Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said on Tuesday: “Undoubtedly, Advent and Christmas are going to be quite different in 2020. Whatever happens between now and 25 December in terms of public health and national policy, we’re reimagining a plan for Advent and Christmas with great ingenuity.”

The cathedral’s annual light-and-sound show, “The Cathedral Illuminated”, will be held outside the front of the building this year, and ticketed, with “significantly reduced” 15-minute slots for the public.

The Luxmuralis artistic director, Peter Walker, who projected a series of images on the cathedral during the pandemic, explained: “We felt it was important to rework the illuminations for our current situation. . . We have incorporated some really beautiful imagery into the projection on the front of the cathedral to create a special moment for everyone who visits.”

This will include an image to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. “The Cathedral Illuminated” will run from 16 to 22 December, from 5.30 p.m. each day, with timed tickets at £5.50 for adults, £4 for children, and £16 for a family; free for under-fives (www.lichfield-cathedral.org/illuminated)

Diocese launches virtual-learning portal. The Diocese of Sheffield Academies Trust (DSAT) has created a virtual-teacher programme, led by a teacher, Steve Poole, who will provide five hours of lessons for students who require access to remote learning during term-time.

The Head of School Improvement for the DSAT, Alison Adair, said: “We are already using a range of strategies for delivering live virtual teaching when class bubbles close, or when teachers have to self-isolate, but we noticed a gap. What do you do when pupils are self-isolating, but the class remains open and the teacher is in class? The Virtual Teaching Programme has filled that gap.”

The chairman of DSAT and diocesan director of education for Sheffield, Huw Thomas, said that the scheme had been funded from savings made by the trust on supply-teacher insurance cover.

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