Dear Parishioners, you would be aware that the government has relaxed some of the regulations in relation to religious worship. However, the relaxing is the equivalent of moving from trousers four sizes too small to trousers three sizes too small. They are still very tight and, if we move too quickly, will have divisive results.
The first thing to note is that everyone is still dispensed from going to Mass in order to satisfy the Sunday obligation. The same rules remain in place: this obligation can be satisfied through private prayer, reading of the Scriptures, watching Mass online or some other practice. We have been offering 9am Sunday Mass online through the parish website and this will continue.
The second thing to note is that only 10 people can attend any one Mass. There is therefore no possibility for a parish Mass. We typically have around 300 people attend Mass across a Sunday. We would therefore need around 10 weeks of the usual Mass schedule to ensure everyone got to just one Mass. Furthermore, this does not allow for any negative change of circumstances where numbers could again be scaled back.
I am also aware that people are still rightly cautious, and that we must continue to protect those who are vulnerable by following best practice. Finally, with all this in mind, I do not want the provision of Mass to be a source of division in the parish based on selection nor a moment of fear or pressure based on a perceived need to attend.
My proposal, then, is that we simply reinstitute the normal schedule as much as we can. We will have to change the 10.30am Mass to 11am to allow for cleaning; however, we will retain the 9am and 5.30pm. We will also have weekday Mass at 9am Tuesday to Saturday. I will say more about opportunities for private prayer later.
This raises the question of who attends. The major problem we face is one of fairness. Even though there now is the possibility of Mass, there is still not the possibility of everyone attending. So, what do we do? There is no fair way. My suggestion for Sunday Masses will be that people be invited alphabetically according to the parish register. This is of course as random as the next method, but every method will have someone who is chosen first and someone chosen last. However, this will ensure that our Mass slots are available to parishioners first, since they are our primary responsibility, rather than non-parishioners. (Of course, if you are not currently registered with the parish, now might be the time to do that.) For weekday Masses, I suggest that those interested contact the parish on the day prior. We will do our best to ensure that those who express an interest will be accommodated. We obviously cannot promise more than one Mass per person. We also cannot promise that each person’s desired date will be possible. We ask for your understanding. Again, I wish more people could attend, but at the moment that is simply not possible.
The parish will also have to maintain records of who attends and their contact details in case of infection for the purposes of contact tracing.
I mentioned earlier the possibility of private prayer in the church. Again, this is limited to 10 people at a time. I suggest that persons who want to take up this opportunity should book directly with the parish. Persons will be able to book for up to an hour. However, they will need to provide all names of those attending, again, with contact details. They will also need to ensure that all areas of the church used are cleaned after prayer. Times available will be between 10.30am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday (allowing for funerals and weddings). Due to Masses and baptisms on Sundays and the associated cleaning of the church, unfortunately there will be no spots available on Sunday. Each session booked will be followed by a 30min cleaning period. Therefore, please be aware that some periods may be unavailable due to previous bookings and other liturgies and the subsequent cleaning.
The real benefit of these changes seems to be in relation to baptisms and funerals as more people can attend. Baptisms will recommence at 1pm on Sundays. There will be restrictions. However, please speak to the parish office for more information. The same goes for funerals.
Please also understand that all of this may change, for better or worse, depending on the situation and the relevant government regulations and diocesan guidelines. We will try to keep you updated as best we can.
Please know that you remain in our prayers, and we are doing the best we can in the circumstances.