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91-year-old Cathedral tour guide masters Facebook to join her church family

by Cara Bentley

A volunteer at Durham Cathedral has embraced social media in her nineties so that she can join in with her regular worship service. 
Lilian Groves, 91, is a senior guide and has been helping out for 30 years. 

She's been a regular member of the congregation there for even longer and after hearing that the services would not be going ahead in person because of coroanvirus, she was determined not to miss out. 
Lilian said: "I initially heard about the digital services the cathedral is offering after receiving an email from the cathedral's Canon Pastor, Michael Everitt. 
"The email contained details of the first pre-recorded Evensong service that the cathedral was due to broadcast for St Cuthbert's Day and being such a Cuthbert fan, I simply couldn't miss it. However, despite being computer proficient and having used emails for decades since I was gifted a computer from a former teaching colleague, I had never used social media before, and I didn't have a Facebook account."

However, she signed up and said she found it "easier than I expected." Once online, despite normally just attending the sung Eucharist at 11:15am on a Sunday, she was pleased she had the option to watch morning and evening prayer twice a day, with an additional Eucharist on a Sunday and commented: "I have found myself watching every single live-stream!"
In normal times, Lilian guides visitors around the cathedral, having even taken Sting and Jeremy Vine around the building. She was also voted national 'Tourism Superstar' following a public vote. 

"I am absolutely loving joining in with virtual worship, and I especially like when some members of clergy broadcast from their gardens because you get a glimpse of the cathedral in the background and can hear the birdsong. It is so powerful, that for a second you forget you are not physically there. These services are keeping me connected to the cathedral that I have spent 30 years sharing my knowledge and love of with others."

Lilian has also been appreciating regular phone calls from Canon Pastor, Michael Everitt and has also got to grips with Skype, and has been keeping in regular contact with her family and friends and allowed her to connect with her niece who lives in Barcelona and her other niece who lives in Hong Kong and has just named her newborn baby after her favourite Auntie. 
Lilian said: "Strangely, I actually feel like I am seeing more of my family now than I was before this all started, but I know that isn't the case for a lot of people my age, so I feel very fortunate." 
Speaking of her highlights so far, Lilian said: "As much as I have enjoyed seeing the beautiful choreography of the pre-recorded services, I have also very much enjoyed some of the bloopers that have happened during the daily live-streams. My personal favourite being the Canon Pastor's dog entering into shot during a recent Holy Communion broadcast. It did make me laugh."

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