February 2022 update
Taking responsibility for looking after each other
We’ve moved into a new phase of the national response to the Coronavirus pandemic, with measures that were once a matter of law now being a matter of personal responsibility. In our parishes we want to live up to that responsibility, and provide an environment where people feel safe, but without continuing with measures that are no longer proportionate to the risk.
The main mitigation against serious health issues arising from Covid infection is to be fully vaccinated; this means two doses plus a booster for anyone aged 16 or over. The vaccine programme in England and Wales has had a major impact in reducing death and serious illness from infection with Covid-19. The Church in England and Wales supports the vaccination programme and encourages people to be vaccinated.
Alongside the positive effects of Covid vaccination, it should be stressed that any people displaying symptoms of Covid-19 should stay at home and not participate in acts of worship in church. This is good practice for any transmissible illness. Medical advice should be sought as appropriate for those who are ill.
The main form of virus transmission is via personal oral or nasal aerosol. Those attending an act of worship may continue to wear a face covering (both nose and mouth) whilst in the church building. There is no need for formal social distancing in church buildings, although those present should be sensitive to the needs of others around them.
Churches should continue to ensure there is good ventilation, balancing this against the need for church heating, especially at this time.Bishops’ Conference of England of Wales
Some relaxation of mitigation measures can be implemented at once, and others require a judgement so that we do not discomfort people who have only just felt confident enough to start coming back to church. We wouldn’t want them to feel unable to continue attending.
With immediate effect, the QR posters have been taken down, and track and trace cards are no longer available. We will continue to ensure our churches are well ventilated, and will continue to pre-heat the churches before they are opened. We continue to invite people to wear a face covering. The holy water has been returned to the stoups, and it is being changed every week.
One set of mitigation measures we have complied with faithfully is to limit the time that people are indoors with others they don’t live with. For Sunday Mass (celebrated on Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings) this has meant eight things.
- Having no entrance procession
- Singing only one verse of the opening hymn.
- Always reciting the Apostles’ Creed, the shorter of the two versions of the Profession of Faith
- Leaving out the bidding prayers
- Leaving out the procession of the gifts of bread and wine
- Beginning the offertory prayers before the collection has arrived at the sanctuary
- Always using Eucharistic Prayer II, the shortest of those available
- Omitting the sign of peace
Fr Martin writes, “Some among us are eager to return to the celebration of Holy Mass without these time-saving measures, and others are more cautious. It’s easy for each of us to think that everyone else thinks as we do, and it can take effort to remain sensitive to the needs of others and respectful of their opinions. So, guided by our pastoral council, I have decided to make sure that people have an opportunity to express their opinion before implementing further changes.”
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