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Churches re-plan for acts of Remembrance

06 November 2020

Covid-safe measures inside buildings are no longer permitted

Dean and Chapter of Westminster

The Duchess of Cornwall opens the 92nd Garden of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, on the north green, on Wednesday

The Duchess of Cornwall opens the 92nd Garden of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey, on the north green, on Wednesday

LOCAL authorities and faith leaders can organise outdoor Remembrance Sunday events at a public war memorial or cenotaph, provided that they complete a Covid-19 risk assessment and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus, the Government announced on Tuesday.

The events should be short, and focused on wreath-laying, with a reduced march past or parade only if social distancing can be maintained, and with minimum numbers of people legally permitted to take part, such as councillors, faith leaders, the local MP, veterans, and members of the armed forces.

Spectators are discouraged, but can watch if socially distanced and in households, and will be subject to test and trace. Limited communal singing, involving the National Anthem and one additional “song” of “a few minutes or less”, is permitted if additional mitigations are put in place. A small and socially distanced military band can play, and so can a bugler.

The guidelines note that Remembrance Sunday services are traditionally part of communal worship, and state that, “From 5 November, places of worship are not permitted to open for communal worship. Celebrants may, however, enter places of worship to broadcast services to their communities and will be able to incorporate Remembrance services as part of this when they do.”

Cathedrals and churches that had planned indoor Remembrance services have had to make swift changes to their arrangements. Southwell Minster had previously arranged for everything to be inside, with 80 in the nave: its safe Covid-restricted capacity. The Dean, the Very Revd Nicola Sullivan, said on Tuesday that plans had had to be changed fast, to an outdoor, scaled-back act of remembrance at the west door.

This will be attended by, among others, the Lord Lieutenant, the Chief Constable, the local chair and representatives of the Royal British Legion, and possibly by the local MP, Robert Jenrick. “We have the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham with us, too, and the cathedral choir will sing — though now I know have a slight nervousness that the choir may not be permitted; so everything is open to change,” the Dean said.

A portable altar will be erected outside the Minster for wreath-laying, and a service is also being pre-recorded inside the Minster, with music from the choir and the Bishop’s full address available from the diocesan and Minster websites from 10.55 a.m. on Sunday.

The local authority in Lichfield has cancelled its usual Remembrance Sunday ritual on the grounds that social distancing in the city’s memorial garden would be impossible, but wreath-laying is being encouraged on an ad hoc basis. The cathedral service, which precedes the civil ceremony, usually has a 1000-strong attendance, but will now be replaced by a live-streamed sung eucharist at 10.30 a.m. containing some of the elements of Remembrance Sunday.

“We will have special intercessions, and a commitment to peace and justice, contained within a liturgy that speaks of Christ’s resurrection and his victory over sin and death,” the Dean, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, said on Tuesday. “There will be solemn but evocative music, and an invitation for individuals to come and pray, light candles, or leave prayers on our virtual prayer wall.”

Winchester Cathedral and its partners had concluded, in early September, that it would be safer to conduct a limited-size internal service with a broadcast and a very short movement out to the war memorial immediately outside the west doors. On Monday, a limited but widely broadcast clergy- and choir-led service in the cathedral was agreed, with a very short movement outside to lay a wreath.

But, as legislation was changing “at least three times before the end of the afternoon”, it was not realistic or safe to make plans at such short notice, the Precentor and Sacrist, Canon Andy Trenier, said on Wednesday. Now, plan A is for a 35-minute broadcast service from inside the cathedral.

One or two public representatives may be permitted to assist in leading worship through reading, praying, and laying wreaths, and there will be a short movement outside, also broadcast, to lay the wreath, hear the epitaph, and observe the two-minute silence. The service will return inside to complete with a blessing.

“Our risk assessments, which pay a great deal of attention to the risk of public gathering, have consistently shown that the safest thing we can do would be to hold a Covid-secure public service indoors. It is a great shame that this is not able to take place, but we will have a simulation of the same,” Canon Trenier said. “The cathedral has an extensive live-stream broadcast facility, and so many, many people around the world will be able to join in that way.”

At Truro, the Dean and Chapter are also hoping to have a live-streamed Remembrance Sunday service from the cathedral at 3.15 p.m. “Clearly, there will be no congregation, but whether it is only the presiding minister who can be there we have yet to determine,” the Dean, the Very Revd Roger Bush, said on Tuesday.

“We would like to have the Lord Lieutenant there to lay a wreath, and we feel this is of vital importance to show that, whilst the nation is in lockdown, the Christian Church is still holding the nation in prayer, and that this is a shared activity. I suspect we will know by tomorrow just who can participate in services to make them meaningful and significant.”

The Act of Remembrance will take place during the 10 a.m. Sunday eucharist at St Edmundsbury Cathedral. The Dean, the Very Revd Joe Hawes, will join the Vicar of St Mary’s, Bury St Edmunds, and the Bishop of Dunwich, Dr Mike Harrison, for the town act of Remembrance at the war memorial on Angel Hill, near the cathedral, and the Dean will lead the traditional Rose Garden service of Remembrance on Saturday.

Filming was taking place this week at St Paul’s Cathedral for an internally based Remembrance service to be broadcast in place of a live service.

The least disturbed place to be could turn out be the Isle of Man, where the cathedral, in Peel, is in a different jurisdiction from the UK.

“We are currently in the very fortunate position of being Covid-free, due to tight border restriction,” the Dean, the Very Revd Nigel Godfrey, said. “So the Remembrance service will take place in the cathedral as normal, with full choir and no social distancing, as well as being live-streamed.”

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