Church buildings might be open but church is happening outside

First published 17th August 2020

Across the region, churches have been holding services outside in a variety of places, from churchyards to stable yards to public parks, even a drive-in service in a supermarket car park.

During lockdown many churches conducted services via Facebook, YouTube and Zoom. As restrictions have eased, they have been finding new ways to bring people together while still following government guidelines and social distancing rules.

At the end of July, Holy Trinity, Horfield, held their first open-air mass on Horfield Common. It was attended by regulars from Holy Trinity, along with members of other churches and some more vulnerable members of the community who were passing through. The service was led by young people who did the readings, prayers and carrying of processional lanterns from the church to the Common. Holy Trinity now plans to hold open-air masses on Horfield Common on the last Sunday of each month for the summer and early autumn.

Revd Canon David McGladdery, Rector of Holy Trinity, said:

 “It is much easier to gather in the open air and certain people feel more comfortable worshipping in this way. We hope it will be an active sign of witness in our community and help locals to know they are prayed for and cared for.”

St James The Great, Dauntsey, part of the Woodbridge Group, held an outdoor service in the stable yard. It attracted more worshipers than a usual Sunday in church, with some bringing their own camping chairs and others participating from their cars.

Revd Steve Wilkinson, Rector of the Woodbridge Group, said,

"As we gradually return each of our six churches to public worship it was great to be able to do something different at Dauntsey, sitting outside or in cars. It has opened our eyes to the possibility of future outdoor worship."

St Martin’s, Knowle put on an outdoor service in the church grounds, marking their first gathered worship since lockdown. The service was also live-streamed to allow those who were unable to attend physically to participate from home. St Martin’s held their second outdoor service, this time with communion, on Sunday 16 August.

St Michael’s Stoke Gifford recently put on a drive-in church service. Over 100 cars were in attendance, with an estimated total of around 300 people. You can read the full story here.

Revd Tom Benyon, Associate Vicar at St Michael’s said:

“Like so many churches across the country we’ve been producing stacks of online services over lockdown, but we’ve really missed meeting and worshipping together as a church family. So we were delighted to be able to hold a drive-in service. It was a really vibrant, joyful event - full of laughter and hope. We got together safely, sang some songs, heard about the good news of Jesus and had fun along the way - and all from the comfort of our cars!”

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