Clypping the Church at Wirksworth

St Mary’s Church in Wirksworth held their annual clypping service today. The old Anglo-Saxon word clyppan, which means to embrace or clasp, is the etymological root of church clypping, but how and why this tradition started seems – like many such practices – to be rather unclear. At Wirksworth, the modern-day clypping is considered to show devotion and love for the church.

Clypping may be an ancient custom, but few churches continue it, so we thought we would take a look.

The clypping is a small part of a longer service. Part way through the service, the worshippers all go outside and form a circle around the building.

First the choir emerge from the church:

The Choir Emerges

They are followed by the clergy and the rest of the congregation, who move around the church to form a circle. It’s a pretty sizeable church, but it’s also the weekend of the Wirksworth Festival, so David the vicar was able to persuade most of the not-inconsiderable crowd of onlookers to embrace this tradition and join the circle.

Clypping the Church

It’s an interesting but slightly peculiar thing to watch. Forming a circle is certainly symbolic, but it also looked rather like a giant version of a dance at a wedding reception. Apparently at some churches, dancing is part of the clypping, but not at St Mary’s, where everyone simply faces the church, holding hands whilst the choir processes around the church singing.

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