Bishop Patrick is exploring possibilities for the opening of churches in the diocese and some of you have been asking about this. There are many considerations and here are answers to some of the questions I’ve been asked about the church’s being open for quiet prayer and open for mass:
(1) Quiet Prayer. (a) We could open the Blessed Sacrament chapel for prayer and up to five people could be present, allowing for social distancing. A hand gel dispenser would be available, but no holy water. The toilet would not be available who is going to clean it thoroughly each time? Men of the road (who can blame them) use the toilet because the chapel is open to everyone. The chapel would have to be sanitised between visits and thoroughly cleaned at the end of the day. Who will do it? (b) If the church is open for prayer, as many as 40 or 50 could be present. People would need to clean where they had been sitting (or someone would) because we can’t risk that any innocent virus carriers (all of us) create danger areas for those who come later to pray. Candles could not be lit. They burn for two hours. Who will supervise the candle stands? Insurance would never cover a fire caused by unsupervised flames.
(2) Celebration of Mass. 50-80 seems to be the maximum number, assuming families would sit together, but allowing for general social distancing. Who will stand at the two doors telling other people they can’t come in? Who will clean the church (every part of it) after mass? How often should I celebrate mass on Sunday, or have communion services? Who will clean and make safe each time?
Safety has to be paramount. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. Every area has to be safe: benches cleaned after each service, toilets cleansed after each use, people accepting and sharing the responsibilities. If we insist (and why not) we should be as free as the shops are to open, we must show we can be as safe as the shops.
Following the request in last week’s newsletter for volunteers to form a team “Preparing for Opening” and for delivery of newsletters, we had only five people come forward. How can we plan?
God bless us and guide us,
(7th June 2020)