Face it, the church can be a welcoming place

Earley St Peter's
Some of the pictures of the Earley St Peter's congregation

Walking down the road today
I saw some pictures on display
All the lovely pictures
Fastened in a row
I stopped and studied all of them
I did not want to go
Who had drawn these pictures
And why? Was it a test?
It was easy to see as you will agree
They had all done their very best
So thank you to all the artists
Thanks for the display
Looking at your pictures
has really made my day.

That’s a verse pinned next to some bright portraits that have gone on show outside one of the borough’s churches.

Earley St Peter’s, in Church Road, invited its congregation to get drawing. While it can’t meet in person at the moment due to social distancing rules, it has been using the internet to hold services.

And it has also been calling 150 households each week to ensure that the church stays in touch with its parishioners.

It asked them to draw pictures of themselves to mark St Peter’s Day.

The Revd Hannah Hobday said: “It’s one of my favourite Sundays of the year, online services are not the same. We belong together even if we can’t meet together – the pictures are a celebration of our church family.

“There’s a variety, that’s what church is. We’re not one type of people, God loves everyone.”

Like others in Earley, it is now in the process of reopening – deep cleaning both church and halls, and starting to welcome people for weddings, christenings and funerals. But it probably won’t be until next month that it can hold services.

For now, churches are allowing people to come in for silent prayer.

Under the current guidelines, the buildings are able to be used for personal visits. Each church has its own systems in place for social distancing, and these are clearly marked.

Ahead of the initial opening, Mrs Hobday said: “The first step to reopening is being open for private prayer, we’ll see how that goes. We have been making final preparations so it’s nice and clean inside, the right signs are in place. I think people are really pleased that the building will be open again.

“We want people to come, but not to feel any pressure to come. People are all different. It’s great to be open, but there is no pressure to come, we are still open online.”

Ealrey St Peter's Church
The congregation’s pictures brighten up Church Road in Earley

When Sunday services resume, it will be a while before it can be business as usual. As a church that attracts lots of families, there are particular concerns about how these can operate safely, and ensure social distancing can take place.

“There are lots of questions (to work through) especially for families,” Mrs Hobday said. “It won’t be long before we can offer worship for families, and churches can go outside if they wish.

“It’s about planning carefully and prayerfully, and thinking about what will be right.”

She added: “The Diocese of Oxfod has been really good at saying that every church has a different situation, and they have to work out what’s right for them, and their parish.”

Earley churches open for prayer

Our Lady of Peace on Wokingham Road: Open daily between 10am and 6pm.

Earley St Peter’s: Thursdays from 10am to noon and 6pm to 9pm.

Trinity Church: 2pm to 4pm on Tuesdays, 9am to 4pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays 11am to 4pm.

Earley St Nicolas: 7pm to 9pm on Tuesdays, 2pm to 4pm on Wednesdays and 10am to noon on Fridays.

Times may change, check with churches before visiting

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