CHURCHES across Ryedale are bringing communities together during the coronavirus pandemic.

Vicars are currently conducting online services for residents through social media, Skype and Youtube.

The Church of England announced, in March, that all churches will close for the foreseeable future, only permitting funerals at the graveside or the crematorium.

The Church of England said its advice came after safety concerns.

“This is a distressing time for anyone losing a family member because it adds to their grief, not being able to meet with others and share comforting hugs and memories,” said Rev Rachel Hirst, from St Peter’s Church, in Norton.

“Churches will be thinking about how to offer memorial or thanksgiving services when the restrictions are lifted, but for now, we try to offer something as personal and honouring to the family member who has died as we can.

“The churches are not full or doom and gloom because our faith is one of hope; we will come through this crisis stronger and clearer about what is important in life, in our communities and in our country.

“The church has always gone through ups and downs and will continue even if it has to change in some ways - hopefully for the better.”

On the website, the Church of England discuss a three-stage plan to gradually re-open churches “in time and in parallel with the government’s approach”.

It says this process would start with allowing services to be streamed from church, followed by widening access for some rites and ceremonies - and finally opening up churches for services with limited congregations.

“I’m amazed that even though our church buildings cannot be used for public worship, our congregations have been responsive and caring to their neighbours and communities,” said Rev Martin Allwood, from the Parish Church of All Saints, in Slingsby

“Congregations have readily adapted and embraced alternative services provided through online platforms such as Facebook and Youtube, although the telephone remains an important way of keeping in touch and caring for people.

“I’m sure we will all face a new reality as lockdown is eased, but feel we will come through stronger and more resilient as a result of it.”

Many faith communities will have to endure long-term changes to their worship in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“At present, no Church of England church buildings are available for worship apart from one person nominated to enter to say prayers, or to record or live stream video services from inside,” added Martin Sheppard, from Diocese of York.

“We too have a sense of communities rallying around on many levels, including church networks working to care for the isolated, lonely and needy.”