Cathedral launches Lockdown Lent programme for 2021

Like everything else this year, plans for Lent at the Cathedral have been adjusted to take account of the pandemic.

In January the Cathedral Chapter took the difficult decision to suspend ‘in person’ worship and other gatherings in the interests of safety while the rates of coronavirus remained high in Oxford. Nonetheless, the daily round of worship continues and, wherever possible, services are being livestreamed on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel so that people can take part from home.

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which this year falls on Wednesday 17 February. In more normal times Christians attend church for a service that often includes a priest marking worshippers’ forehead with ashes. Christians traditionally mark the 40 days that follow with fasting or other such spiritual discipline in imitation of Jesus’s fast in the wilderness.

This year there will be no ‘ashing’ for reasons of social distancing but the Cathedral will be open for private prayer that day between 10am and 4pm. People are invited to drop in for some quiet reflection. There will be a livestreamed service of penitence at 10am, prayers on the hour as well as the usual livestreamed 1pm service of Holy Communion, to which congregations are invited.

Entry is via Tom Gate, and subject to the Cathedral’s usual Covid-safety measures.

The day will end with a reflective online-only Eucharist at 6pm which will be livestreamed on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel.

Beyond Ash Wednesday, on Saturday 20 February the first one-day Church Times Festival of Faith and Literature will take place, hosted by the Cathedral. The theme of the day is Light in Darkness and speakers include novelists Francis Spufford, Rachel Mann and Katharine Tiernan, priest and poet Mark Oakley, and the Dean of King’s College Cambridge, Stephen Cherry. Tickets are available online.

There is also a Lent Study Group beginning on Tuesday 23 February at 2.30pm when the Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker will lead a discussion on Stephen Cherry's book, Thy Will Be Done. The group will meet on Zoom (Meeting ID: 945 9693 3905 Passcode: Lent.)

During Lent the Cathedral is also beginning a series of conversations designed to shine a spotlight on our unique joint foundation. Open House will offer a fireside chat between the Sub Dean Fr Richard and members of our academic community. The conversations will be livestreamed on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel.

The programme begins on Monday 1 March at 8pm. Check our website for updates.

The Revd Philippa White, Cathedral Precentor, said: “In Lent, we remember Jesus in the wilderness, encountering God at the beginning of his ministry. By tradition, we join with that experience through ‘giving up,’ simplicity, and spiritual discipline.

“After a year of pandemic restrictions,our worship is already simplified and we feel the loss of many things we might not have chosen to give up. We may already feel as if we are in the wilderness.

“Perhaps this year we should commit to spending gentle time with God. Our Archbishops have called us to pray for the nation daily. We will continue to do that at the Cathedral and invite you to join the whole Church of England in that prayer, through Lent and beyond.

“Most years, after the rigours of Lent, Holy Week brings catharsis and Easter brings joy. We can’t yet confirm any details, but whatever the restrictions, Easter will be celebrated and services will be livestreamed, with as much choral music and joyful celebration as we can safely provide.”