King’s Lynn church emerges from ice of lockdown
The winter of isolation has melted for All Saints Church in King’s Lynn, and it has re-opened for collective worship. The Rector, Canon Adrian Ling, tells the story.
Our churches of All Saints’ King’s Lynn and St Peter’s West Lynn had been frozen in time. The church calendar in the sacristy was left open at the end of March. The purple frontal of Lent was still on the altar, the church was denuded of flowers. How swiftly an air of dereliction pervades an unused church. Was it the lack of fresh air through doors that had remained closed; the dust that lay unswept or caught in the cobwebs; the lack of incense to cover the mustiness of the old building? Or was it the lack of prayer and worship and the absence of life?
We were so keen to get back into church, and we waited impatiently for the guidelines to be released. Cleaning days soon banished the dust and the mustiness, and the brass of the ornaments gleamed once more. The early concession of private prayer in church was not acted upon; we had had three months of private prayer, what we longed for was public prayer and worship. We needed to recover that connection with Christ that is supremely expressed in the sacrament of the Mass. Once again we could get back a little bit of normal life and really mark out Sunday as our holy day. We could resume the rhythm of the daily Mass and Office of Prayer; the pulse of regular worship was beating in our churches once again.
The response was good. With about 40 in our two churches on the first Sunday and then 50 on the second. The proscription of singing was regrettable, and the first Sunday without organ felt rather clinical. But for the second our organist returned to All Saints and the amplitude of the repertoire of the hymn machine was explored at St Peter’s. A mantle of music was wrapped around the service, giving the liturgy a sense of momentum and expectation while maintaining a calm and reflective feel.
The people were spaced out using every other pew, which actually reduced the capacity to about a quarter, but extra seats were put out in the aisles. The ability to distance in our airy, spacious buildings meant that face masks need not be worn, and communion was administered with outstretched arms in silence. The church needed to be made safe but it was important that is also felt relaxed.
It was such a joy to be back in church and to be together. We had kept in touch regularly with our people, we had live-streamed our Masses from the Rectory Chapel and had coffee mornings via Zoom, but it was good to have the distance of the screen removed and to be physically united.
How appropriate was the gospel message of 5 July: “Come to me all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Here we could at last lay those burdens, personal to each one of us, at the foot of the altar, to be strengthened by Christ in the blessed sacrament to take them up again.
Pictured above is Canon Adrian Ling and Fr Joshua Bell after the first Sunday Mass at All Saints King's Lynn, 5 July 2020.