Recently the Diocese has released some guidelines called, “Liturgical -Pastoral Directives in a Time of Pandemic”. These guidelines allow us to reopen our churches starting Monday June 8th. However, for the safety of the people, we need to be careful and rethink how we come to Church. I know that this can seem like a hassle to many people and I heard from many that churches should never have been closed in the first place. However, we have to recognize that churches are particularly vulnerable to the spread of disease. As the document states, ” The risk is considered by public health experts to be especially significant indoors at prolonged, sedentary gatherings where coughing, sneezing and even talking/singing could easily communicate the Coronavirus.”
Specifically, here are the main points of how these guidelines will affect our community as we open up our church to public worship again.
- We are dispensed from the obligation to come to Church until September when the dispensation may be renewed. If you have any symptoms of Coronavirus, feel ill, have underlying health conditions or are in a high-risk category, please avoid all public gatherings, even Church
- When at Church, you must wear a mask and maintain social distance. Every other pew will be marked off to encourage this distance.
- Only the front doors of the church will be open so that Ushers can count how many people are coming into the church. If we are at 1/3 occupancy, we need to turn people away. If I need to adjust the Mass schedule in order to accommodate more people (like, for instance, having a 10:15 am overflow Mass in the gym), I will do so in the weeks after we have to turn people away. Weekday Masses are limited to 25 people.
- The presentation of the offertory gifts and the sign of peace are suspended.
- Holy Communion will be distributed after Mass in order to assist in social distancing, so that the priest and deacon can wear masks and to make it easier for people to be dismissed in an orderly fashion. Ushers will stand in the center aisle and tell each pew when they can go up. Also, we will distribute all communion from the center. So, people in the side pews need to file through the center to receive communion. Afterward, communicants can leave via the side aisles. (The Church needs to be empty so that the cleaners can sanitize the pews.) Also, if you would not like to receive communion at this time then please either indicate you would like a blessing by crossing your arms or just walk past the priest and deacon.
- We still need Extraordinary ministers to sign up for masses. If no deacon is present, we need one person to distribute communion. Also, we need two more people to sanitize the hands of the priest and deacon if someone receives on the tongue.
- Baskets will be placed in the back of church for people to put their collections. We will not be taking up collections during Mass.
- All missals are to be removed from the church. All the holy water fonts will remain empty. Bathrooms will remain closed unless we can find some way to sanitize them between Masses.
- No devotional or social gatherings are allowed.
- I will continue live streaming one Mass a weekend.
Of course, this all may change depending on if the virus goes away completely or if there’s a resurgence. So, please be cooperative if plans suddenly change. Let’s all just be glad that we can finally return to church and not ruin it for anyone.