Reopen for Public Worship but not normal yet
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, churches can reopen for worship in July. This is wonderful news. How good it will be to start coming back to be physically with each other once again! The Diocese and the Government have not yet issued specific advice for churches (that would have been too helpful!) and so I am unable to tell you exactly how this will look but I will try my best in this letter to predict what that advice will say and how we will implement it. We will be keeping two metres distance in our churches but this does not include distancing from the people you live with.
The first week of Masses will be at the following times, which will be the pattern going forward:
- Monday 6th 9.30am at St Mary’s
- Tuesday 7th 12.15pm at the Good Shepherd
- Tuesday 7th 7.30pm at St Mary’s
- Wednesday 8th 9.30am at St Mary’s
- Thursday 9th 9.30am at St Mary’s
- Friday 10th 9.30am at St Mary’s
- Saturday 11th 9.30am at St Mary’s
- Sunday 12th 10am and 12noon at St Mary’s;
- Sunday 12th 5pm at the Good Shepherd
Numbers will be limited at these Masses. The ‘Sunday Obligation’ normally applies to Christians, meaning we should be at Mass every Sunday. This has not been restored yet but it would still be wonderful for you to come to Mass as much as possible. I don’t want to try to arrange certain people coming to this or that Mass but I hope you will be patient if you’re not able to enter because we’re full. One thing that will help is for you to come before the Mass begins so you can get settled in. Places will be marked in Church and you can sit with members of your household but not other people. Please maintain social distancing.
I do not know whether it will be feasible to give Holy Communion to people. When we come to Mass, the most important thing we do is offer ourselves to the Father in union with Jesus. It is about seeing Jesus under the forms of bread and wine and asking for the eyes of faith to behold Him and worship Him. We are to greet Him with joy as John the Baptist leapt in the womb of his mother when he beheld Christ, who was then concealed in the womb in His Mother Mary too. You will see the priest saying Mass (‘the Celebrant’) receive Holy Communion but this is because this needs to happen for the sacrifice to be offered to God. It’s sad that it might not be possible for everyone to receive Holy Communion but it would mean we don’t have to worry about how people moving round the building or infection potentially being passed round by the priest as he goes from person to person. I’ll make a decision about this before next Sunday.
I hope Baptisms will happen very soon but I am waiting to see what advice is given by the Diocese and the Government on this matter before deciding what will happen.
Funerals and Weddings can now happen in both churches, with the same restrictions as for other services.
You can now make your Confession. Arrange with Fr Morris or Fr Beer and you’ll meet in a locked church so that social distancing will be maintained with the seal of the confessional ensuring confidentiality.
I very much hope congregational singing will be permitted but I cannot yet guarantee that. I await the publication of advice. There will be music at all the Masses.
One thing I would very much like to organise is for the Masses on Sundays that happen inside the churches to be relayed at the same time to other locations. So, the Sunday Mass at St Mary’s could could be relayed to the Vicarage Garden and the Kemble Hall where people could be at the same time as those in Church. Similarly, the Mass at the Good Shepherd could be relayed on to Mitchley Road. If you are someone or you know people who could help with this venture, please do be in touch with me as soon as possible.
Our churches will not be open for private prayer outside of Mass times from Monday 6th as people have not come in the numbers that would make it sustainable.
Please arrive before Mass begins as this will help things move smoothly – and it’s much better for your spiritual life too. An Office (Morning, Midday or Evening Prayer) will be said by the clergy for you to listen to for thirty minutes before every Mass after Monday 6th. Books will not be provided for you as these can spread the disease but bring your own or listen and calmly unite yourselves to the prayers being said by the clergy.
It would be good to have a welcomer and a reader for all the Masses arranged in advance. The welcomer would arrive 30 minutes before and try to help people to find seats efficiently. If the churches become full the welcomer will the need to tell people arriving that there is no room. The reader would read the First Reading and the Psalm at Mass. Do let Fr Rimmer know if you can help with this: email@example.com and 020 8808 6644.
There will be no collections at the Mass. Your giving and donations can be left in the shrine boxes and donation boxes or through the letter box of the Parish Office. Electronic banking is the easiest way to do this too: St Mary’s Parochial Church Council (PCC) Barclays Account Number 90796212, Sort Code 20-53-00.
A few final bits of information:
- There will be no sharing of the Peace and no Holy Water.
- The WCs will be open.
- All Masses at St Mary’s will be in the Nave, where Mass was celebrated on Sunday before lockdown.
- The shop at St Mary’s will not be open.
- There will be no refreshments after Mass. Bring water with you.
- There will be no Sunday School (these continue to meet on Zoom) or Bags with Children’s activities.
This is a big step forward but we do have a long way to go before we reach normality: it’s going to feel odd when you come to Mass but I hope you will still come. Thank you for your prayers, your giving and your support. Sorry this is a long letter.
With my love and prayers, Fr Morris