York Minster is preparing to welcome people back for individual prayer from Tuesday 16 June, following the government announcement that places of worship can reopen for this form of worship.
It will be the first time since the Minster closed its doors on 16 March in response to the Coronavirus pandemic that people have been able to visit the sacred space, light a candle, reflect and pray.
The cathedral will initially be open from 4.30pm – 6.30pm Tuesday to Saturday and from 2.30pm – 4.30pm on Sundays, and a number of measures are being put in place to help keep people safe during their visit.
These include limiting the number of people allowed inside at any one time, signage and reduced seating to allow people to socially distance from one another, a new one-way system, hand sanitizer points and additional cleaning measures.
The Dean of York, the Right Revd Dr Jonathan Frost said: “I am delighted that we are able to take this next small but significant step towards seeing the Minster fully re-opened by initially opening for individual prayer.
“All of us who live, work and pray here, look forward to the doors being fully opened in the days ahead.”
The cathedral is initially reopening with reduced hours to allow a phased return of its staff and to allow its new arrangements to be tested and adjusted before extending its hours.
Only the main Nave area of the cathedral will be open for individual prayer, with a one-way system and signage encouraging social distancing, facilitated by staff equipped with PPE. A member of York Minster’s clergy will be available each day for anyone in need of pastoral support and care.
Due to major work being done to the cathedral’s Grand Organ, the Nave has been temporarily arranged so seating within the cathedral faces the Great West Window, which contains the Heart of Yorkshire, so that its symbol and message of love can provide a focus for people’s prayers and devotions.
The wider Minster will remained closed for public worship, including services, and for sightseeing, in line with current government guidance. Dean’s Park, the green space at the north side of the cathedral, has already re-opened on a daily basis from 10am to 6pm.
While the Minster has been closed it has moved worship online, and this will continue with a new, pre-recorded Sunday Evensong service broadcast each week at 4pm via the cathedral’s Facebook and YouTube channels and on its website.