LONDON – Pat Allerton, the vicar of an Anglican church in London’s fashionable Notting Hill district, isn’t one to let a nationwide lockdown get in between him and a message of hope.
Armed with two loudspeakers, Allerton left his vicarage at St. Peter’s church and got on his bicycle to deliver his Easter Sunday sermon on the area’s backstreets.
Allerton, like other Church of England clergy members, has had to be ingenious at finding ways to spread the word during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. The Church of England has closed all its churches.
For Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, that involved giving his Easter Sunday sermon in his kitchen from behind a makeshift altar.
Allerton said he needed to come up with an Easter alternative, too, as “we were told we couldn’t gather in churches for obvious reasons.” Britain has been under effectively a government-ordered lockdown since March 23, a state of affairs that is expected to be extended later this week.
So a plan was hatched to take the church to the people.
“In conversation with my bishops, we decided that, yes, this ministry could continue, should continue, but that it could be part of my daily exercise,” Allerton said.
“So now I go on a big bike ride,” he continued. “I’m carrying quite a bit of weight, as you can see, with the speakers and the generator so I’m fully independent, and I just get out and cycle and get around the parish and round about local streets looking to bring a bit of hope.”
During his two-wheeled ministry, the vicar plays hymns such as “Amazing Grace” through the speakers and gathers passers-by in song followed by some prayer for people suffering during the battle against the coronavirus and for front-line health workers in the National Health Service.
For Dan Pratt, a Notting Hill local, a chance encounter delivered exactly what Allerton wanted to give, much-needed hope two days on from his grandfather’s death from the coronavirus.
“The family have obviously been a bit torn up about it. We can’t be together, we can’t give my nan a hug,” Pratt said. “And worst of all, we can’t give him a funeral or send-off or anything like that at the moment.”
So he decided to go on a run to release a bit of energy, and by chance he came across the bike-riding vicar and his loudspeakers.
“It was a bit emotional for me, but it was really, really good,” Pratt said. “That has reall,y really helped me, I say, given the loss of my grandfather and what’s going on.”
Is there anything more a man of faith would wish for?
This version has been corrected to show the church is in Notting Hill, not Nothing Hill.
Video journalist Renato Guerra contributed to this report.
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