Clergy at York Minster have said it is a “blessing and a relief” that worship and visiting can restart as they prepare for Christmas.

York will enter Tier 2 of the Government’s coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday and the Minster has announced that it will re-open for public worship on that day.

Sightseeing visits will begin on Thursday.

But the Rev Canon Vicky Johnson, precentor at York Minster, said there will be restrictions in place and Advent and Christmas will be very different from previous years.

“It is a blessing and a relief that worship and visiting can restart at York Minster and that we will be present for people as they prepare for Advent and Christmas,” she said.

“The ongoing need to control the virus means that capacity at services will be severely limited.

York Minster staff prepare the Advent wreath (Danny Lawson/PA)
York Minster staff prepare the Advent wreath (Danny Lawson/PA)

“Attendance at key services on Sundays and in Christmas Week will only be possible via our pre-booked online reservation system.

“However, digital worship has flourished at York Minster this year so all of our Advent and Christmas services and events, will be available digitally via livestream and on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. 

“So everyone will still be able to experience and enjoy Advent and Christmas at York Minster wherever they are.”

Ahead of the reopening, one of the largest Advent wreaths in the UK was raised inside the Minster on Friday.

The new Archbishop of York, The Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell, watched as the four-metre wide wreath was lifted into place below the Central Tower.

It is the first time it has been hung in its traditional location since 2017 due to the scaffolding which had surrounded the Grand Organ as part of its once-a-century refurbishment.

Staff prepare the Advent wreath prior to it being raised to its traditional position (Danny Lawson/PA)
Staff prepare the Advent wreath prior to it being raised to its traditional position (Danny Lawson/PA)

The wreath, which has been made by the cathedral’s volunteer flower arrangers using ivy and holly sourced mainly from the Minster’s gardens, holds five candles which are gradually lit each Sunday during Advent in the countdown to Christmas Day.

The archbishop said: “The raising of the Advent Wreath is a sign of hope – the hope that light will come to our darkness, the hope that life will overcome death, and the hope that God will be with us.

“I pray that in these weeks as we journey towards Christmas together, that people will be filled with these hopes.

“I am praying that all will discover that in Jesus they can be made whole and be fulfilled.”

The Minster says it has implemented a range of measures to help keep visitors and staff safe including compulsory mask wearing, limiting the number of people allowed inside, reduced seating and a one-way system.

Changes to services include no singing or sharing of the Peace and the suspension of the Common Cup during Holy Communion will continue.