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Arrangements for the opening of the church for Mass Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th July

Dear sisters & brothers,
With the recommencement of public Masses at St Aidan’s from 11th July we are about to reach a significant stage on our journey back to normality, even if the road ahead is a long one. For us as Catholics there is nothing that replaces being present at the celebration of the sacrifice of the Mass and partaking of the Eucharistic supper of the Lord. That having being said we have learnt in the past few months that there are various degrees of ‘presence’. For example a close friend who is far away may be present to us by letter, or telephone, or skype. They are all varying but real kinds of presence but none are as fully present as meeting together and perhaps sharing a meal. So it is with meeting Jesus in the Eucharist, the most real kind of presence is being physically present at the celebration of the Mass.
Many people are working with me to make sure that next weekend we can open for three Masses at the regular times of 6pm Saturday, 9am & 11am Sunday. If you feel ready to venture out safely please do come. For those who feel they need a while longer please be assured that your decision is respected and we will continue streaming Masses for you at home.
There will be some significant changes to the way we have to do things in church. None of them are desirable from a liturgical or community point of view but all of them are based on the Government requirements as applied to places of worship and the reason for them is laudable.
We have been given two choices concerning distancing: a) 2 metre distancing or b) 1 metre plus distancing. In last week’s newsletter I said that I envisaged we would choose the 2m option as it seemed the least onerous. However, when I measured the church and allowed for a 2m radius around every potential person it resulted in a maximum of around 20 people per Mass. This would be very inadequate so it follows that we will need to adopt the 1m plus option. This option allows for one metre distancing with an added PLUS. The ‘plus’ is a course of action which mitigates the risk of spreading Covid19. For churches this normally means the compulsory wearing of a mask during services. When the priest and ministers are on the sanctuary they are not required to wear the mask because they are considered to be sufficiently distanced for others to be able to dispense with it. For Holy Communion people may remove (or pull down) their mask as they approach the priest or special minister. The ‘plus’ for those moments is that there is no dialogue between minister and communicant (i.e. ‘Body of Christ – Amen’ is not said ), a physical barrier is in place (a kneeler or a chair) and both the communicant and the minister stretch their arms out as far as possible with the communicant keeping the receiving hand very flat with the other hand underneath, while at the same time not being uncomfortable. These things collectively fulfil the requirement for the ‘plus’ in place of the mask for communicant and minister at this time.
Receiving Holy Communion in silence in the hand and no chalice offered.
The dialogue ‘body of Christ – Amen’ will be done in a different way. Before Communion the priest will raise the host and say ‘the body of Christ’ you respond ‘Amen’; he will raise the chalice and say ‘the blood of Christ’ and you respond ‘Amen’. Afterwards people will receive Holy Communion in the hand in silence.
One way system.
Going to Holy Communion will follow a one way system. The people in the side benches (near organ and opposite) will be given Communion first. People in these places should approach the priest or minister who will be behind a chair at the sanctuary step. Approach from the more open side and return by the wall side. After that the people in the nave of the church should come up the centre aisle in two lines. You will be directed out of your bench by stewards row by row. You will see white lines in the centre aisle a metre away from the benches. These indicate the path you should take, walking between benches and the line, they will also show what a metre looks like. Return by the side aisles.
Track & Trace.
Additional information was sent to clergy late on Wednesday telling us that by law parishes had to comply with the Track & Trace initiative and so fulfil the requirements. This means that the name and contact (address or email or telephone number) for every person who attends church must be recorded and kept for 21 days in an envelope for every Mass including weekdays. We are not permitted to admit anyone who fails to provide this information.
For convenience and to save time you may register via our “Contact Us” tab on the website Alternatively you can bring the information with you and leave it in the place indicated when you come to church. People from the same household including children can have their names on one card. Those who do not have the card with them on arrival can write it at church where cards will be provided.
If you are using the “Contact Us” tab to register please fill in your name and email address. The date of the Mass you are registering for. If it is a Sunday please indicate which time as there are two Masses. If you are registering others in your household including children please name them in the message box. If your group is more than 3, please use multiple entries
Most of the benches in the nave of the church are a regular size. We can fit one unit on every bench which will take one, two or three people sitting together. No unit is less than 1m from the aisle where people walk. Only those sharing together at home can sit in a cluster of two or three. These places may be occupied by one person if they are at church alone. Half the benches in church are irregular sizes including those near the organ and opposite. These will contain some single and double places. You will easily know how many can sit in the given designated places as each seat will be marked with a sign as shown here on the right. Please sit on the markers as they are strategically placed to keep the 1m distancing rule from those around you including those who pass along the aisle.
If any Mass is oversubscribed we are obliged by law to not allow the church to go above the number of designated places. Unfortunately that means we would have to turn people away if that point is reached. We will operate a first come first served system. It very much goes against the grain to do that but the safety of any group gathered in a building in the present circumstances has to be paramount. On the other hand we may well be undersubscribed. If you feel ready to return to church please do come because otherwise we will never know how many people wanted to start back and Masses could be reduced if numbers are low.
Entrance and exit doors.
During church visits we have used different entrance and exit doors to avoid people passing one another. This will not be the best arrangement for Masses as the flow model is different. So before Mass all doors will be for entrance, at the end of Mass all doors will be for exit.
Time in church will not be unduly extended.
We have been told by the Bishops not to keep people unduly long in church. This is to mitigate the risk of the virus spreading. To this end there will be no formal bidding prayers and the homily should not be more than about 5 minutes. There are other measures that I can take at my discretion such as omitting the first reading and psalm as this is already permitted for pastoral reasons. When we play recorded music we will endeavour to do so in a way that does not prolong the time in church. Music played during Holy Communion or as people are leaving would be one way of it not prolonging the time that people are in church.
Various requirements.
 You will need to bring your own facemask and wear it during Mass. We are not permitted to allow anyone into church without a mask.
 Everyone is asked to sanitise their hands on their way in and out either from the containers provided at the entrance or from their own bottle .
 Unfortunately we are required to keep toilets closed.
 If you need water to drink please ask the stewards.
 Singing by the congregation in church is not permitted because exhaling to that extent is conducive to the spread of the virus.
I would like to thank those who contributed and pledged so generously and so quickly for the new camera to stream Masses from church. This has enabled us to buy and install a camera very quickly, thanks to Roy and Denis who worked at speed to get it up and running. We hope to test drive it this Sunday and put it through its paces. The streaming of Masses will continue to be a spiritual life line for many. There is no guarantee but it should be possible to stream all Masses next weekend, 6pm Saturday, 9am and 11am Sunday. If you are watching from home please do not be surprised if Masses are late starting on the first week as we do not know the effect that sanitising hands and the collection of Track & Trace data will have on the speed at which people can be seated.