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Clergy at York Minster have launched a new initiative to use the Paschal Candle as a focus for prayer for all those directly, or indirectly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Following an announcement by the House of Bishops last week, clergy can now re-enter churches and cathedrals to pray. Clergy will pray inside the cathedral every day and the Paschal Candle has been set up as a symbol of hope and prayer in the Minster’s Lady Chapel.
Understandably, many people are struggling with the pain of bereavement during the Covid-19 pandemic. So York Minster will make it possible for families and friends to email a request for their loved one, or for someone for whom they are concerned, to be remembered in a prayer that will be said at the Paschal Candle.
Because of the national lockdown, it was not possible to hold the customary Easter services in the Minster this year. The Paschal Candle, symbolising the life and light of the Risen Christ bursting forth from the empty tomb before dawn on the first Easter Day, would have been lit from a newly-kindled fire, and would have continued burning throughout the Easter season until the Feast of Pentecost, 50 days later. The Minster clergy, along with members of the wider Minster Community, have continued to pray and hold services online during this time. With the House of Bishops’ recent announcement that clergy can re-enter churches and cathedrals to pray, it is a matter of great rejoicing that the Paschal Candle will be lit and used in the Minster during the Easter season, and prayers requested by families and friends for their loved ones and others will be said. Relatives will receive an email to confirm the prayer and a photograph of the lit Paschal Candle.
Canon Maggie McLean, Canon Missioner at York Minster said that whilst the Covid-19 lockdown measures are necessary to keep everyone safe, they have been particularly tough for the family and friends of those who have died in recent weeks. Maggie said:
“The death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult moments. For many, the chance to visit a church or cathedral to offer a prayer in their memory or to attend their funeral are hugely important rites of passage, deeply emotional acts of respect and love that give comfort and solace and which are important for the grieving process.
“With places of worship having been closed, these simple, human rituals have become all but impossible, amplifying the heartbreak and trauma of the bereavement. While it is still not possible to offer the full services of the Church to those who are grieving, this is an important step in the direction of what many are looking and hoping for. The offering of prayer in this way, will be a reminder that they are not alone but are embraced in the love and care of God and the human family.”
The email address to request a prayer and a candle to be lit for those who have recently died is firstname.lastname@example.org. All emails will receive a response within 48 hours.
On 5 May 2020, the House of Bishops announced their agreement to a phased return to church buildings. The initial immediate phase will allow very limited access to church buildings for activities such as streaming of services or private prayer by clergy in their own parishes so long as the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are taken. In cathedrals and larger churches there may be scope for multiple clergy to offer prayer on different days.
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