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Swaffham parish church reopens after several residents had questioned delay

Following concerns being expressed by residents, a market town's parish church has been deep cleaned and reopened this week.

St Peter and St Paul's Church in Swaffham opened for private prayer on Wednesday from 11am to 1pm with worshippers being encouraged to wear a mask to protect others, and a service is also lined up for this weekend.

It comes after town councillor Lindsay Beech said she had received messages from several concerned residents regarding the delayed reopening.

St Peter and St Paul's Church, Swaffham
St Peter and St Paul's Church, Swaffham

Speaking as a Christian resident, rather than as a town councillor, she said: "The Church should have been open weeks ago for private prayer and two Sunday's ago should have resumed Covid secure congregational worship.

"The doors are still locked. Several residents have asked me why this is still the case, but I've been unable to contact the vicar to determine the reason."

But the church has subsequently announced there will be a short Eucharist service on Sunday at 9.30am with live-streaming continuing on its Facebook page for those unable to attend in person.

In accordance with government guidelines, the church has stated there will be various measures in place including the prohibition of singing and processing.

There will also be a one-way system in operation on Sunday and two-metre separation.

The Revd Janet Allan, vicar of Swaffham and Sporle, said: "We would have loved to open earlier, but as our webpage and pew sheet made clear we needed a deep clean first.

"In a church our size, this was a big job and we had a specialist firm in on July 11. I realised we would need to move so much for them, that opening on 12 simply wasn’t possible.

“Most of our volunteers are in high-risk categories, so our churchwardens and a couple of others have done sterling work to enable to open as early as we have. We are very aware of the Covid-19 death toll in Swaffham and want to ensure that our parish church is a safe place for all to return to.

“We have continued to worship throughout lockdown with a range of live services on our Facebook page (over 2,000 hits last Sunday). With so many shielding we will continue to try to provide for them and to reach those for whom livestream continues to be helpful.”

A track and trace system will also be in place for all worshippers in which people will have to supply their name and phone number. This is for the government's system in case they need to trace those who may have been in contact with the disease.

The church statement says: "The deep cleaning of St Peter and St Paul’s Church has now taken place and we are now able to reopen the building safely, subject to the Covid-19 constraints."

Plans for Sporle St Mary to reopen are also underway.

The government announced churches could reopen from July 4.

Rt Revd Graham Usher, Bishop of Norwich said: “Churches are sacred and special places - treasure troves of memory for generations of people. They belong to all the community and it is a joy that they are now able to be places of welcome and prayer once again.

“I hope that in time all our churches will be open, but if they can’t do so immediately then there will be good reasons.

“It is crucially important that our church buildings are safe places to enter which do not endanger public health. A comprehensive risk assessment will need to have been undertaken. Our churches need to be cleaned thoroughly in the right way and with the appropriate materials having been closed for three months.

"Some of the people who look after our churches, may need to be shielding or isolating at present.

“This all may mean that some churches will not be able to open straight away and, especially in localities where there are a number of church buildings, this may take some time.

"There is no need to rush as we work together to open up our churches, safely, securely and steadily. Our journey out of lockdown will be made up of these small steps."

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