Coronavirus: Peterborough city centre church can be ’shining beacon of hope’

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A Peterborough vicar has said churches will still be open for residents during the coronavirus - even if services have been cancelled.

Canon Ian Black, from St John’s Church in the city centre, said the historic building would remain open for a long as possible to allow residents a moment of reflection and to pray.

The Church of England cancelled all services across the country earlier this week.

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Canon Ian BlackCanon Ian Black
Canon Ian Black | JPIMedia Resell

Canon Black - who is self isolating as he is in a high risk group as he has type one diabetes - said: “These are unprecedented times - well almost. We have to go back to the last plague (1665-66) to find something similar. During that time the vicar, Symon Gunton, found ways to minister to the people of this city and he is an inspirational figure for us. He faced a much grimmer task of burying significant numbers of people, and for all the great anxiety that there is, we are not expecting anything on that scale. At the bottom of each page of the parish burial register he recorded his gratitude to God for preserving him from the Plague. We will aim to follow his example and ensure that the mission and ministry of this church continues to shine as a beacon of hope for the people of this city.

“But we do know we are in scary times, and anxious times. I am in a group of people who are severely limited as to what I can do.

“Face to face contact is a major part of what I do. I don’t want to do my job over the internet or something similar, but we are having to change.

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“Those members of the clergy who can will still be there to say good morning and good evening, and be in the church.
“People can still come to St John’s church, but there will be no public worship. The church will be open during different hours.

“We are also planning a weekly email news letter, and online materials.

“I know there are plans for services to be broadcast online in some form, whether it is the cathedral or nationally.

“We are coming up to Easter, the most important festival in the Christian calendar, and we don’t know what will happen. We will not be having Mother’s Day Services this weekend.

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“There is some serious worry about people’s mental health at the moment, and we have to help each other.”

Canon Black said the church was there for everyone in the city during the crisis.

He said: “We are in a moment when people may look at our churches , and think about a deep connection over what it stands for. We will be there.”

Currently there are no restrictions on weddings and funerals, although Canon Black said he anticipated changes would come. He sad; “unerals could be stripped back to only close family who can attend.

“Weddings can take place, but could just be the couple and two witnesses.”