It is a blessing that the government has decided that in the present lockdown we “can attend places of worship for a service.” Thank you to everyone who contacted their MP during the second lockdown, asking their MP to request to see the evidence for the closure of places of worship. The government’s current decision was based on the heartening results of places of worship diligently applying their Covid Secure measures. It would be foolish and dangerous to allow our determination and compliance to slacken now that a more infectious variant of the virus is present in the country. It’s useful to remind ourselves of the most important of our protective measures.
Wrap up warm. Latest research indicates that good ventilation can reduce the infection rate indoors by seventy percent. Seventy! So we will continue to keep church and hall very, very well ventilated for Holy Mass. We are pre-heating the venues before Holy Mass begins, but there’s no escaping that at this time of year once they are opened for people to enter they will become cold and draughty. In addition to wearing your warmest clothes, you could bring a rug for your knees and a shawl for your shoulders! Nobody wants to avoid Covid only to suffer from hypothermia.
Don’t mingle. During this present lockdown, we are not permitted to use our attendance at church as an occasion for relaxed socialising. The stewards will help us to keep our two metre spacing during Holy Mass, and thankfully nobody has been idly chattering as they await the start of Holy Mass or queue to leave. Afterwards, once we are outside the church or hall ,we must not linger to mingle with people outside our household or social bubble.
Symptoms. Nobody should turn up for Holy Mass if they experience a new persistent cough, a high temperature, or a change in their sense of smell or taste.
Hand sanitising is not just a gesture. Remember that hand sanitiser (or soap and water) should be used liberally, and rubbed into all parts of the hands for a full twenty seconds.
Your nose is part of your face. We should take care to wear our face coverings properly at Holy Mass, making sure that mouth and nose remain covered. Face coverings are compulsory at Holy Mass, apart from individuals who are legitimately exempt. A three-layer face covering (single use or washable) should be used if at all possible, and many of our local shops sell three-layer face coverings (for example, in Aldi on Tuesday I saw packs of three, three-layer washable masks for £4.99). Three-layer single use masks are available from the stewards on entry to the church or hall.
Two metres. The seating for Holy Mass is arranged to keep individuals or household groups two metres from others. While queuing to enter, and when moving around, we should take care to maintain that two metre spacing
.Follow the stewards’ instructions. Our stewards have generously volunteered to help people stay safe, and their instructions should be followed promptly and cheerfully. Without the stewards, we would not be having Holy Mass with a congregation.
Being allowed to go to Holy Mass doesn’t mean we have to. Anybody who feels anxious or diffident about taking part in Holy Mass should be reassured that we don’t have to take part. Our bishops have suspended the Mass Obligation, so nobody is obliged to attend, and the bishops hope that people who are at special risk, especially people subject to shielding, will choose to stay at home. You are not being disloyal, you are not a bad Catholic, if you decide that instead of going to Holy Mass you will stay at home because, acting on your own judgement, you decide that’s how you are going to to protect your health, protect the health of others, and safeguard the NHS.
Thank you to everyone whose generosity with their time and talents has made it possible, and continues to make it possible, to achieve Covid Secure certification so we can celebrate Holy Mass with a congregation. And thank you to everyone whose cheerful compliance with the necessary measures has made our churches a beacon of best practice in preventing the spread of infection
.Let’s continue to pray for all those suffering from Covid, the medical staff who care for them, the scientists working to eliminate the disease and advise the government, and those in government and the civil service who are charged with the responsibility of keeping us all safe.
This information first appeared in our parish newsletter.