Across Salford many churches have decided to remain closed but have found different ways to connect with their parishioners such as using streaming services such as Zoom to connect with regular churchgoers.
Dom Hyndman, communication officer for Salford Cathedral said: “We are conscious that there are people in the community that can’t necessarily physically get to church and we need to be able to reach out to them.
“So when the first lockdown hit, we brought that service forward and installed a camera just before the Easter services which is obviously the key time of celebration for the catholic church and that has been a massive success.
“Over Easter, services reached an average of 10,000 people per service online.”
11 – 13 Sept. As part of National Heritage Open Days this weekend, two stunning Victorian churches in Salford are open to heritage visitors. St Peter's Church in Swinton and St Augustine's Church in Pendlebury. For more details of opening times visit https://t.co/IRqTbmzWLQ pic.twitter.com/fZQrTuhCSS
— Salford City Council (@SalfordCouncil) September 9, 2020
The amount of people wanting to attend church physically is still growing and with strict government guidelines, it has put staff at the church in an unfortunate position.
Mr Hyndman said: “It’s probably one of the most difficult aspects for us, in terms of, sadly, sometimes we do have to turn people away and as a church, that just goes against everything that we do… but ultimately we have to follow guidelines and be responsible.”
Salford Elim church is one of many churches in Salford whose doors are still closed.
A member of the Elim church, Emmanuel Isibor, said that even if his local church was open now, the restrictions would not allow anybody to embrace the worship that would usually take place.
Emmanuel said: “There’s really no substitute for personal touch. If you were to give somebody the option, they would prefer to meet in person and have that experience.
“When you have a church service, during praise and worship, everyone is singing together and that has a positive impact but here, you are just watching a screen but this is the best we have.”
The Revd. Dr. Neil Hudson, the minister of Salford Elim Church said: “Physical disconnection is the most difficult thing we’ve all had to go through and I think what people need is the sense of physical community.
“I think one of the things that this period has done for us is, it has been, on the one hand, fantastic that we’ve got all these relatively-easy communication abilities, that has been brilliant but what this reminds us is that this can’t substitute for being in the same physical space.”
It is clear that for particularly small local churches, the restrictions provided by the government guidelines would not allow a high enough capacity for even a fragment of regular church goers.
The Revd, Dr. Neil Hudson, the minister of Salford Elim Church, discussed why they chose to remain shut.
He said: “Our building that we meet in was far too small anyway and because most of the things that make church, church for us, we wouldn’t be able to do.”
When people heard Christians say that Jesus is Lord in the 1st century, they knew just how subversive that was. To suggest that there was another King provoked riots.
What could it mean for us today?
Join is for our live Sunday morning service at 10.30 ⬇️https://t.co/wSbs1Tv8Kl
— Salford Elim Church (@SalfordElim) October 25, 2020
Marie Greene, 70, a Roman Catholic that has lived in Salford for the most part of her life, said: “It is both isolating and at the same time, unifying.
“I miss seeing and mixing with the congregation but with the use of technology I have in some part been able to take part in either Zoomed or Streamed services.
“Others I’ve spoken to feel the same but of course not everybody has access to technology so as a community we try to reach out and include those people.”
Jumi Isibor, a member at Salford Elim church and a consultant doctor at Salford Royal said: “I think the amazing thing is that we have all this technology now but maybe 10/20 years ago, if COVID-19 had hit us then, I don’t know what we would have done.”
Within Salford, an extremely strong and supportive online community has been built within and between churches.
Sheila Kelly, 66, who was a eucharistic minister prior to the pandemic at The Lady of Delores in Salford, spoke about missing her role in the church.
She said: “Not being able to take communion to the elderly people was quite a big thing for me because I felt as though I was providing a spiritual service as well as a social space and that all just stopped.
“I’ve found it quite isolating but we just have to adapt.”
Sheila went on to applaud the Salford Diocese (who run all Catholic churches in the area) for ‘responding really well to all the closures and giving everybody information on streaming masses and daily blessings’.
She said: “I found a church 15 minutes away from me that does the services I would usually attend, at 9pm every evening and the priest always chats to us and does a blessing and for me, that is lovely. It provides a lot of comfort for myself.”
With such uncertainty for the near future and celebrations like Christmas just around the corner, the Catholic community in Salford are forced to maintain faith until they can meet once again.