Towards Resuming Public Masses
The opening of the church this past week for private prayer has been running very smoothly with a steady flow of people coming in to visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Some have been quite emotional. Thank you to all who have helped make this possible with the stewarding and cleaning of the church. As many of you will be aware, now, thanks be to God, the Government has given permission for churches to open for the public celebration of Mass from 4th July. It will be a great joy to see you all and be able to celebrate the Sacraments together again after all this time. However, a lot needs to be put in place before this can happen. So, regrettably, public Masses will not resume immediately, but we are working towards doing this as soon as we can. As was the case with opening for private prayer, there are risk assessments to be completed as well as many practical things to be organised; so we are probably talking about a couple of weeks time. There will be a limit of 56 people able to be in the congregation at any one time in accordance with social distancing rules. Masses will be shorter, no singing is allowed for the time being and there will be some other changes to help to ensure safety which I will communicate to you nearer the time. Hand sanitiser must be used and the church will have to close for cleaning after each Mass. In addition to those who have kindly acted as stewards and cleaners for the private prayer sessions, we will need more volunteers who are under 70, and with no underlying serious health conditions to provide help with these roles. Please let me know if you are able to help.
As the four Archbishops of England and Wales wrote in the letter I sent out last week (and which you can find on the parish website), at this stage we are clearly not returning to normal, and it is important to reaffirm that, at present, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended. Therefore, it would be really helpful if some parishioners would consider attending Mass on a weekday instead in order to help us manage the numbers. It is likely that a booking system will have to be put in place. Once I know exactly how this will work I will let you know. There will also be one or two changes in the Mass times to help as many people as possible to attend. Of course, some of you may still feel uneasy about coming back at this time, and that is fine.
May God continue to keep us all safe; and let us continue to implore His mercy and to pray hard for an end to this pandemic and for the full restoration of the sacramental life of the Church. Do penances and offer up your sufferings and trials. May Our Lady of Fatima, St Michael the Archangel, St John Henry Newman and Blessed Antonio Rosmini pray for us.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC