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Covid restrictions fail to quench Church’s burst of Advent creativity



Second Church Estates Commissioner says outdoor carol singing will be permitted post-lockdown.

VIRTUAL and outdoor carol services, and online seminars and Advent calendars, are just some of the creative ways in which churches and cathedrals across the UK are marking the season of Advent in pandemic times.

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced that places of worship would be allowed to reopen when the lockdown ends this coming Wednesday. Social distancing means that church capacity will be limited, however, and the ban on congregational singing indoors due to the unknown risks of viral transmission remains in place.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday, the Second Church Estates Commissioner Andrew Selous suggested that carol singing would be allowed outdoors from the middle of next week. This was confirmed in government guidance on the Christmas period, published on Sunday, which states that indoor singing by both amateur and professional choirs would be permitted from 2 December, and that congregations could sing carols outdoors, providing they were physically distanced.

Speaking in anticipation of the change, on Friday, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Recovery Group, said: “I know that the news that we will be able to come together for public singing outdoors this Christmas will bring comfort and joy to many.

“Advent and Christmas this year will not be the same as previous years, but having outdoor congregational singing and indoor carol services with choirs is a reasonable balance, and recognises our duty to protect and care for each other.

“Following news that the official number of people who have died and are Covid-positive reached almost 700 a day this week, we are mindful of the terrible toll this virus is taking in this country; so I pray that our worship this Christmas will reflect the light and hope at the heart of the nativity story.”

In the light of the restriction that limits singing at indoor services to choirs and performers, many online carol concerts are being organised in which people can sing along at home. Some cathedrals, such as Truro, are offering multiple ticketed carol concerts by the choir to allow more people to attend in person (News, 20 November).

Lichfield Cathedral, for example, would usually expect more than 1000 people at its Advent Sunday carol service. Instead, the Dean and Chapter are hosting a service online, and inviting people to light candles at home.

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