Coronavirus hits churches as services and events are cancelled

Happier days - Palm Sunday worship at St Oswald's, Askrigg, three years ago. Now it must close.

By Betsy Everett

Advice from the Church of England today means that all services and events in the four churches of the upper Wensleydale benefice will be cancelled until further notice because of the coronavirus.

St Oswald’s, Askrigg, St Margaret’s, Hawes, St Mary and St John, Hardraw, and St Matthew’s, Stalling Busk, will all remain open for private prayer during the day, though rules about social distancing, hand-washing and hygiene must be strictly observed.

The vicar of the benefice, the Revd Dave Clark, said: “Our churches will stay open for private prayer in these difficult times, and we are working out new ways to be church and provide ongoing pastoral care and practical support to our members and the wider community. Further details will be posted in due course.”

St Oswald’s in Askrigg had been planning not only for Easter services, but also a series of social and fundraising events throughout April.

All have had to be cancelled. These include the flower festival planned for April 12-18, the Big Art Action on April 18 in the village hall, the soup lunch and special audio visual presentation in church on April 23, and the Marie Little Concert on April 25. The latter has been rescheduled for October.

All the Easter services will be cancelled, including the Maundy supper followed by holy communion in St Oswald’s, which was due to take place on April 9, and Songs of Praise on April 13.

The restrictions and cancellations will remain until further notice.

In the joint letter to churches, Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu have also urged clergy to maintain the ancient pattern of daily prayer and, where possible, the eucharist, but state: “Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead. Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.”

Inside St Matthew’s Church, Stalling Busk. Also now closed.