The new Bishop of Dorchester is hopeful that Oxfordshire congregations will be able to sing carols in church this Christmas.

Yesterday it was announced that the Queen has approved the appointment of the Venerable Gavin Collins to replace Rt Rev Colin Fletcher, who retired last year.

On Monday the Church of England welcomed the publication of the Government’s Covid-19 Winter Plan, detailing that places of worship will be permitted to reopen for public worship from December 2, in all tiers, subject to social distancing.

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Speaking from Dorchester Abbey yesterday, which he visited for the first time, the Venerable Collins said it had been “incredibly frustrating” for Christians not to be allowed to gather for fellowship in churches but added that churches have had to follow the law and scientific advice.

Oxford Mail:

The new Bishop, previously Archdeacon of The Meon in the Portsmouth Diocese, said: “Churches will be able to reopen for worship with social distancing (from December 2) and each PCC (Parochial Church Council) will assess the building for safe numbers.

“At the moment people in the congregation are not allowed to sing together but I’m hoping that they will be allowed to sing because a carol service won’t be the same without the full gusto of the congregation.

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“We have to be safe and err on the side of caution but we are working to enable singing in time for Christmas.”

Oxford Mail:

The Faith Task Force last week handed evidence to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick that argued that places of worship were Covid-secure and worship benefited the congregation.

The announcement about the Venerable Collins’ appointment was followed by his visit to St Mary’s Church in Chipping Norton where volunteers have been supporting over 200 families during lockdown through an initiative called Mary’s Meals.

He praised church staff and volunteers for their creativity and energy in streaming online services for congregations to help prevent church goers from feeling isolated.

The technology including Zoom had helped older generations to stay in touch with their families and grandchildren, he added.

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Responding to the announcement, the Venerable Collins, said: “I am thrilled and humbled to have been invited to serve as the next Bishop of Dorchester and look forward to joining the Diocese of Oxford in the New Year.”

Oxford Mail:

Oxford played Portsmouth away last night and the new Bishop, a lifelong Brighton fan, said he would be supporting Oxford in the game.

He added: “It will be a privilege to work and worship alongside the people of these churches as, together, we serve the communities of Oxfordshire.”

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The Venerable Collins, 53, was educated in Law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He then worked as a solicitor in the City of London before training for ministry at Trinity College Bristol.

Oxford Mail:

Having grown up in Sussex, he is a lifelong and active supporter of Brighton and Hove Albion.