Download: Statement on reopening of churches
Parish of St Peter’s Cathedral and St Thomas More Lancaster.
Reopening our churches following the COVID lockdown.
Finally…we have a chance to say “Alleluia” together! The last Mass offered at St Peter’s was on Friday 20th March. We have been praying, but apart, since then. Our Easter season got absorbed into COVID time…but our Easter faith has the invitation to be as strong as ever. Let’s value the re-emergence of public worship by reconnecting with this the Mass…the most perfect expression of our Faith, in the way that is most appropriate to personal circumstances.
COVID 19 is a part of life for the foreseeable future. Social distancing, personal hygiene and controlling the space where people gather in numbers is a part of life for us now. Celebrations of the Mass and the Sacraments will continue to reflect this reality. Mass will still be our greatest prayer, it will continue to define Catholic identity, but there are changes which we will notice.
The Conference of Bishops of England and Wales has laid down requirements which need to happen before church buildings reopen for Sacraments. Here’s a digest of them (some of them were needed for churches to reopen for private prayer three weeks ago):
- Public Mass will begin in the parish from Monday 6th July. Weekday Masses will continue to be 1215 at the Cathedral, with the building opening for private prayer at 11.30am and closing after Mass at 1pm. Sunday Mass times in both churches remain the same as in the Diocesan Directory and as before the lockdown began (i.e. Saturday vigil 6.30pm. Sunday 9.30 (STM), 10.30 and 6.30pm.) Buildings will be closed after each Mass.
- We are reminded that bishop Paul has suspended the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, although he has asked us to keep Sunday a prayerful Day of the Resurrection if it does not include Mass. People over 70 and those self-isolating are reminded to avoid larger gatherings of people outside of their household.
- Churches must be laid out and arranged for social distancing (Already done in both churches). Two stewards must be present at each mass in each location to oversee the requirements of social distancing and hygiene. When the building closes at the end of Mass they are asked to help clean the benches/chairs people have touched. (aprons, disposable gloves, face masks as well as cleaning solution and disposable cloths will be provided.)
- The Mass is asked to be dignified but brief (that will raise a wry smile in some quarters!). For the moment, no altar servers. There is no public singing allowed (again…), although music and a single voice chanting is possible with appropriate social distancing. There are no bidding prayers and any homily is to be brief (lots of opportunities for smiling so far!). The biggest change will be in the distribution of Holy Communion.
- We are encouraged to keep the movement of people within the church to a minimum. To this end, the distribution of Holy Communion will happen in Mass after the final blessing and dismissal.
- The clergy will thoroughly sanitise their hands (with 70% Alcohol Gel) then come to the front of the sanctuary steps with the sacrament to distribute to the people. Two kneelers (Prie-dieu) are set in place and people stand behind either of them at the line marked on the floor. Communion will only be given in the open hand and no touch blessings can be given. A socially distanced one-way system will operate for this movement.
- Once people have received, they are invited to leave the building. Conversation outside of the buildings will still require social distancing, so people are invited to make their way home. The Floor of both buildings is marked out with two metre marks. There will be one way into both buildings (the usual doors) and one way out (in both cases the West door). People who need a ramp/chair lift are invited to make their way out of the appropriate exist without going against the flow of people. Reminders of these proceedings will be spoken by the clergy before the beginning of Mass/distribution.
- The Offertory Collection will not be taken. Please leave your offertory gift in the marked basket instead, preferably as you enter the building.
- For your information. Social distancing capacity of our buildings:
This might influence your choice of Mass to attend. Before lockdown our least attended weekend Mass at the Cathedral was the 6.30 Vigil Mass.
I appreciate this agenda seems forbidding, and it will take some time to settle into a routine. Look upon it as an extension of “love your neighbour as yourself” …that way it will be true to the Lord.
Welcome back! We look forward to seeing you…from a social distance!
All prayers and best wishes.
The Cathedral Clergy.