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Can the Church of England Survive COVID?

Churches and places of worship have been badly hit hard by the pandemic. So, in the first week of the first lockdown, as the Church of England shut its doors, the Reverend Pat Allerton, vicar of London’s St. Peter’s, had a brainwave. Nicknamed the Walking Priest, he says, “I had an idea to take a hymn and a prayer to the streets of my parish, to lift spirits and bring a bit of joy. So, on March the 26th, I went out to Portobello Road.”

He was cautious about the effects of hitting the streets with a loudspeaker, blaring out Judy Collins’ Amazing Grace on Spotify. He says jauntily, “I thought I might be told to ‘do one’ (English slang for ‘disappear’). But I was amazed by the response. People were really moved. They clapped and invited me back! They probably regret that now. I believe God was coming alongside people, letting them know He’s there.”

Over the following weeks, Allerton did 64 walking services around London, helped by the amazing weather. Each service--with a hymn, a prayer, and a 60-second sermon--took seven minutes. He invited people--up to 50 at a time--to join in from a window or doorway. “So many people commented on social media, saying things like, ‘I’m not religious but I’ve got goosebumps. There are tears coming down my face.’ God’s presence was touching people.”

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