Parishes adopt booking system for Christmas Masses

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Parishes adopt booking system for Christmas Masses

With government restrictions limiting numbers in churches, parishes across the diocese are planning a booking system for Christmas Masses, which are traditionally very popular.

St John’s Cathedral in Norwich is one of several parishes across the Diocese which has decided to put on extra Masses. It has almost tripled its usual number of Masses from six to 17 to accommodate people with reduced capacity of 250. Details and a facility to book are available at  

Over a normal Christmas the parish would expect over 3,500 people, with some Masses such as the Christmas eve Vigil Mass attracting a capacity congregation of up to 1,500. The parish will be running three Vigil Masses on Christmas Eve.

St Peter and All Souls parish in Peterborough is also putting on extra Masses for Christmas. These include one at 10pm on Christmas Eve, as an alternative to the traditional 6pm and midnight services. There will be five Masses on Christmas Day, with options to celebrate in Portuguese and possibly Lithuanian. As no wind instruments are allowed, the music group will be reduced.

Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge will be celebrating 10 Masses across Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, including some in Latin and Polish. 110 places will be made available through online booking and a further 70 will be allocated on the door.

St George’s in Norwich already has a successful booking system for Sunday Masses, which it will continue into the Christmas season. Fr Sean Connelly explains: “We’ve used the booking system since the re-opening after the first lockdown. Parishioners are asked to book online from our website or alternatively they can ring in to the presbytery and leave a message on a particular extension number. The online booking also enables people to cancel if they find circumstances change in the week and they can no longer make the Mass they booked. It helps us in ensuring we keep to covid-safe numbers in church, avoids the embarrassment and hassle of having to turn people away at the door. It also saves time on track and trace as we have all the details we need when people book. It works very well.”

St Edmunds parish in Bury St Edmunds is hoping to have an online Christmas music event on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, which is being organised by a couple of parishioners.  The parish is also supporting both the local Storehouse Foodbank and the Annual Gatehouse Christmas Appeal. Gatehouse will be putting together hampers for families and individuals and, if restrictions allow, will organise a small get together for those struggling with Isolation.

Like other diocesan priests, Fr David Bagstaff from St Edmunds is aiming restore communal worship in person from this Sunday. “I’m sure parishioners will be willing to return to Mass after Lockdown 2,” he said, “as churches are one of the safest places to visit. We will continue to live stream the Sunday 10.30 am Mass and the Wednesday morning Mass at 10.00. We also live streaming Evening prayer from Sunday to Friday. Our viewing audience for the 10.30 am Mass on The First Sunday of Advent was our biggest ever.”

Fr David said he thought that parishioners had “adapted very well to all the regulations”  and he was looking forward to 2021, “when hopefully things can return to some sort of normality”.

Under current Covid-19 restrictions, communal public worship is allowed in all tiers 1 to 4 in England as long as attendees remain in their household units while worshipping.

Government guidance says that indoor singing should only take place in large, well-ventilated spaces and with social distancing. The guidance allows choirs to sing indoors and everyone to sing carols outdoors.

Pictured above is a Christmas Mass at St John’s Cathedral