We are emerging from what has felt like a long, dark winter – and this week we marked one year of lockdown, by honouring loved ones and reflecting on the challenges we have faced, through national and local reflections on our collective grief.
Now, as Christians across the diocese get ready to begin Holy Week, we start to look ahead to a new dawn. Holy Week 2021 coincides not only with the change of the seasons, but also with the positive impact of vaccinations and the easing of lockdown restrictions. This means the reopening of some church buildings to the public after being closed for so many weeks.
Churches in the region have been implementing Covid-secure measures so they can open their doors once again for Holy Week and Easter. For example, St Ambrose and St Leonard in East Bristol will be re-opening for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and St Stephen’s Soundwell will reopen on Easter Day, with two services of Holy Communion.
Revd Canon Dan Tyndall, Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe, which reopens for public worship on Palm Sunday and will be offering a daily in-church Eucharist service throughout the week, says:
"The last twelve months have been one of the most agonising and distressing years in recent memory. The darkness has been very real: for many people, it has seemed as though their lives have been nothing but darkness, wall to wall darkness, for months.
So, not only is it a good thing in itself that the church will reopen soon, but it is highly significant that the church will reopen at the start of Holy Week which will provide us with an opportunity to experience the fear, the anxiety and the loss as never before ... and then to awake to a new dawn, to the life of the risen Christ, to the light that shines in the darkness, and experience that dawn, that life, that light as never before."
Bristol Cathedral will reopen on Palm Sunday for Holy Week and Easter, with eight different in-person services happening in the building. The Diocesan Eucharist with the Blessing of Oils and the Renewal of Commitment to Ministry will be held both in Bristol Cathedral and online on Maundy Thursday. To keep the service Covid-safe, one representative from each benefice has been nominated to attend in person. The Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, says:
“As we continue to live through a time of uncertainty and upheaval, I look forward immensely to seeing representatives from across the diocese on Maundy Thursday and to sharing with them in the act of worship and renewal.”
With strict limits on the numbers of people able to attend services within church buildings, many churches are making creative use of their outdoor spaces to bring further safe worship to their communities during Holy Week and Easter. For example, at Christ Church Downend, there will be a Tree of Hope – people are invited to come and tie a ribbon on a tree in the churchyard to commemorate loved ones, or say a simple prayer. They will also be holding Experience Easter Outside, which will tell the story of Jesus’ last hours before his crucifixion in an interactive journey round the churchyard, for individuals and family groups. All Saints Church Lydiard Millicent will be holding an interactive service in the church grounds on Good Friday.
Churches are also offering online services and special Holy Week occasions. St Alban’s Westbury Park will be having a Holy Week Meal on Zoom, where a Love Feast Cake will be delivered to participants, following their Lent craft project to flood their neighbourhood with hearts as a sign of God’s love. St Michael’s Church Stoke Gifford will be holding an all-ages Zoom for Good Friday, and there will be online services throughout Holy Week and Easter streamed from Bristol Cathedral.
We look forward with hope to the week ahead, and to Christians coming together both in person and online to follow Jesus' journey through suffering and death to new life. An Easter message from the Bishop of Bristol will be published on our website on Easter Sunday.
To find out the schedule for Holy Week and Easter for your local church, visit A Church Near You.