Clergy across the country broke into song to mark Palm Sunday, as newly eased coronavirus restrictions allowed small choirs to sing inside cathedrals.
From 28th March, groups are allowed to practise and perform inside places of worship in England if they are socially distanced and limited to “as few singers as possible”.
Three lay clerks at Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire were among those performing the Sunday Eucharist to socially distanced congregations inside the church, and many more watching from their homes via a YouTube livestream.
The cathedral’s Dean, John Dobson, described having the trio present as “a marvellous thing” when he welcomed his congregation of around 50 people.
He said: “It is wonderful that we’ll see at the front, when the procession arrives, lay clerks – only three, we’re only allowed three at a time – but we will have lay clerks singing and that’s a marvellous thing.”
The service involved the distribution of palms for the Holy Communion, and morning prayer ahead of the performance by the trio.
A donkey called Lily, along with her owner and Canon Michael Gisbourne, also greeted worshippers at the cathedral of the Diocese of Leeds, in the first major service the building has held since early January – but the animal was not allowed indoors due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Palm Sunday is the Christian holiday on the Sunday before Easter, and ceremonies commemorate Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem through the laying of palm leaves, prayer and Eucharist songs.
Under previous guidelines in England, only one person was allowed to sing or chant indoors when deemed “essential to an act of worship”, or a maximum of three people in “exceptional” circumstances.
For Palm Sunday and Easter celebrations, the size of congregations in England will depend on the space available in the grounds, and religious authorities must carry out a risk assessment to ensure worshippers can be socially distanced.