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The “fear factor” in reopening of churches and schools

South Norfolk spiritual director and school teacher Dr Margaret Mary McFadyen reflects on the re-opening of churches for private prayer.


I found myself feeling quite emotional as I listened to Fr Chris Whitehead from St John the Evangelist Church in Bath talking about reopening the church after lockdown; first for private prayer, and then looking forward to having some of the congregation back for Mass, albeit in a limited capacity.

He mentioned the “fear factor” and it resonated with me since I returned to teaching in school this week with some students. I recognised that sense of anxiety within me to do with coming out from behind closed doors and going into a room with more people than I have been in contact with at any one time for the last few months.

From the perspective of spirituality and discernment, it is important to notice what we are feeling, to observe where it comes from and where it leads.

In school, there is a very carefully worked out risk assessment which has been applied to our own specific circumstances and having been in now and taught my lessons, I am reassured as to effectiveness of such thorough planning. It is not the way we have previously done things, but it is a step towards real community again, as opposed to virtual community.

On listening to Fr Whitehead’s description of what they have done in his parish, and on reading the preparations my own parish have made, I am confident that, within the remit laid out, everything is being done to make it safe to physically go back to church. I am looking forward to it.

Listen to Fr Chris Whitehead on a priest’s perspective on the reopening of churches for private prayer

Listen to Archbishop of Southwark John Wilson speaking about the reopening of his Cathedral, St George’s, for individual, private prayer.


Dr Margaret Mary McFadyen is the Diocese of East Anglia representative to the Bishops Conference Spirituality Committee.

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