Saturday, 04 July 2020
THE Church of England may consider having fewer buildings following the coronavirus lockdown, says a priest.
Rev Mark Ainsworth said more people had been attending virtual services than normally went to a church on Sundays.
“Given we have Sunday attendances going up and we don’t need the buildings for that, I suspect that going forward we will have a bit of a hyrbrid [system],” he said.
“But people do love the buildings and they’re important.”
Rev Ainsworth is priest-in-charge of St Bartholomew’s Church in Nettlebed and also responsible for the churches in Highmoor, Bix, Pishill, Rotherfield Greys and Nuffield. He was appointed a year ago after 26 years in America.
He has been running Zoom services for members of the congregations in his five parishes since April.
About 60 people have tuned into the weekly broadcasts at 10.30am on Sundays to take part in morning prayers. The services comprise a confession of sin, recorded hymns, readings and prayers.
Afterwards, participants are split into chatrooms of about six people where they can socialise.
Rev Ainsworth said people enjoyed the services and it was a chance for them to speak to others during the lockdown.
“I think at this time it has been wonderful for them to be able to connect with one another and for me to connect with them,” he said.
He said he was looking forward to normal services resuming but did not expect this to happen until the new year if there was a second covid-19 spike in the autumn.
Rev Ainsworth said: “We don’t know when the end point will be but people do want to go back.
“We’ve all missed receiving Holy Communion and seeing each other. I’m looking forward to coming back and meeting people outside the virtual world.”
Meanwhile, Holy Trinity Church in Henley opened for private prayer this week following the slight easing of government regulations.
Initially, the church in Church Street is only open from 2pm to 4.30pm on Wednesdays.
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