We are now at the beginning of June. We have been in lockdown for nearly ten weeks (since 23rd March), and when that started early June seemed a long way away. Now we are here, and it is good to report that some aspects of the lockdown are beginning to ease: some schools are returning, there is more outdoor activity taking place, and shops will soon begin the tentative steps of re-opening.
The cathedral, along with other places of worship, needs to be prepared for re-opening, and steps are being made to achieve this. We have put together an extensive risk assessment document that outlines all the possible areas we need to cover to make the cathedral a safe place to visit, such as ensuring that hand gel is available for visitors, that the building is properly staffed and that there is a one-way system in place. Seating will be provided so that visitors can sit still, absorb the atmosphere and offer a prayer should they wish. A member of the clergy will also be available for pastoral conversations. It seems likely that when the doors open again it will be for visiting the cathedral only, and not for public worship, but if this changes there will be an update to state this. However, the building’s iconic presence, as a symbol of God’s presence in the heart of the city, will ensure that our spiritual needs are met in some small way by being open and providing at least some outlets for prayerful expression.
As the prime minister said earlier in May, coming down from the mountain will be more difficult than going up it: imposing lockdown was easier than easing it. In that light, the cathedral’s ‘re-emergence’ will be gradual, and I am sure that I and my colleagues will not always judge everything correctly, and we will probably get some things wrong. So, please be patient if we cannot accommodate all your needs as soon as we would like. Again, at this juncture, we do not know when full-blown, sung worship will reappear within the cathedral; the safety of all who come to the cathedral will be our prime concern. But we are equally conscious of our mission and purpose to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these strange times, and we will do our level best to make that witness as real and as purposeful as we can.
Please pray for us as we prepare for re-opening, as we continually pray for you.