If you are reading this having been to church then what follows will not be news to you, but my hope is that others who may still be reluctant to return to Mass, perhaps still unsure of how safe it is to gather in church, will see this on our parish website and reading it, or hearing it from others, will feel reassured and encouraged in returning.
Under normal circumstances our church could seat around 165 people. In order to achieve a safe capacity with two metres separation between individuals, initially every other bench was taken out of service and each remaining bench was designated for two adults or a family group. This gave us a maximum capacity of 30. With the move to Step 3 of the government’s “road map”, distancing decreased to one-metre-plus, giving us a maximum capacity now of 42 – which is still only a quarter of what the church could hold so there is plenty of space. Every other bench remains out of use, and those seats that can be used are marked with green stickers, and those that can’t with red stickers (as in the photo).
Stewards check names against the reservation list at weekend Masses, as well as keeping a list of those attending Masses during the week. They show people to their seats in order to ensure they are sitting socially distanced (depending on whether they are individuals, couples, or a family group) and they direct people coming to and from communion to ensure social distancing is maintained – just be aware of the floor markings. When you receive communion there is a table between us to maintain distancing and I will be wearing a face mask anyway.
To further reduce the risk of infection we are not allowed to sing hymns; the holy water stoup at the church door has been removed; the Mass cards have also been removed as have cushions and the various items that were available for children; we don’t exchange a sign of peace; and we are not permitted to receive communion from the chalice and the host must be received in your hand. You are asked not to talk to others in church but to go directly to your seat (as the steward directs you) and to leave straight after Mass. You can talk to others outside – but socially distanced please.
To avoid passing collection plates or baskets from hand to hand there is no collection during Mass. Instead there is a plastic basket at the back of church for you to leave your offering there either before or after Mass. There is no one staffing the piety stall – just a plastic “honesty box” for monies.
Churches were required to open windows and doors to provide the circulation of fresh air, but that wasn’t always practical in the winter and in any case our church windows no longer open as they once did. As people were wearing face masks I didn’t feel anyone was at risk anyway, but now that the weather is better we can at least leave the door open (provided, hopefully, the traffic noise isn’t a disturbance) and there are fans on the windowsills to assist the circulation of air. [Please do not arrive late for Mass as, even if the door is open (but it could be locked), the stewards have a right to be able to celebrate Mass without the disturbance of having to attend to late-comers.]
Priests have been instructed to keep people gathered in church no longer than is absolutely necessary and so, for example, to give just a short reflection on the readings rather than a possibly lengthy homily. Without rushing things, it is also possible to slightly reduce some of the usual pauses and spaces, and hopefully the system at communion operates smoothly and doesn’t delay things.
Everyone attending Mass is required to wear a face mask – with the exception of very young children and those excused on health grounds. I don’t wear one (except at communion time and when I leave the sanctuary at the end of Mass) so that you can hear me more clearly. There are hand gel dispensers at the back of church and in the toilet. After every attended Mass the church is completely sanitized using a misting machine which disinfects the air and the benches and kneelers and other surfaces.
Last Saturday confessions were scheduled once again. There is a chair to sit on as usual – socially distanced from me – but in order to also provide the option of anonymous confession I have put a thin plastic film over the screen so that there is a safe barrier between myself and the other person. This, and the kneeler, will be cleaned before the next person comes in.
During the times that the church has been open for Mass I have tried to do everything I could to keep everyone safe and will continue to do so. Thankfully, I am not aware of any parishioners contracting the virus and I hope that will continue to be the case. Thank you for playing your part in contributing to everyone’s good health well-being.
From the week beginning June 28th there will be attended Masses every day and therefore we will no longer be live-streaming daily Mass except on Sundays for the benefit of our sick and housebound. Reserving a place at weekday Mass won’t be necessary – though you will have to give your name and phone number to the steward as you come into church – but places will still have to be reserved for Saturday and Sunday Mass, see below.
RESERVING PLACES AT WEEKEND MASS
To reserve a place at Mass please contact:
John (07771 805297) (email@example.com)
or Peter (07717 498552) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or Mark (07748 655294) (email@example.com)
48hrs notice is required to reserve a place please and if you are not going to use a place you have reserved you are please asked to give at least 48hrs notice of cancellation.