An announcement from Government over the weekend allows for the re-opening of Places of Worship across the country. This has been welcomed by the Bishops Conference of England & Wales, amongst others. It applies to all Faiths and Denominations.
The announcement allows for the re-opening of Places of Worship from Monday 15th June. Whilst the headline is straightforward, the reality is more intricate. The Government have said further announcements can be expected through this week.
What does the announcement mean? Yes, that Places of Worship will be allowed to unlock and re-open their doors. It doesn’t mean, however, that all Places of Worship will open; that the opening will be on that date; that a re-opening returns us to the previous status quo in how [our Churches] are used.
We must continue to remember that we remain in conditions of a Public Health emergency. Whilst infection levels and deaths from Coronavirus COVID-19 are, happily, decreasing, Public Health officials remain worried at the risk of a renewed phase of transmission. This reality underpins all.
We must be realistic in recognising that this Public Health backdrop will bring with it quite strict criteria. Whilst the permission to re-open Places of Worship has been given, our expectations must be grounded in the recognition that not every church or Place of Worship may feel able to meet the criteria required.
For us here at Holy Trinity, as with all churches across our Diocese, work is underway in examining the required criteria involved in any permitted re-opening of our church. This may take some time to assess. It is possible that any decisions reached here in the parish will also need to be approved by wider Authority. We must be patient whilst this work continues. We must recognise that, even if it proves possible to do so, that the church won’t necessarily be opened on the date announced in the Government’s public statement.
We will make further Parish announcements when we are in a position to do so.
What may be the reality for the re-opening of any church?
- the Government announcement is already clear: the permitted re-opening is for private prayer only, not for communal or public worship.
- We must not be looking for the re-opening of churches to mean a return to public Mass. This is still not on the horizon.
- commonsense suggests a range of possible scenarios in any re-opening of the church. These could include: selective opening times; restricted numbers inside the church at any one time; Public Health hygiene requirements (as per our new normal! incl. social distancing; hand washing etc Even, the full cleaning of public areas following any period of opening). It is conceivable that we might be required to have visits to the church monitored by stewards. We may, equally, need to consider whether visits are restricted to within only one area of the church area.
We must be ready to accept the circumstances of any re-opening and comply with any requirements.
Whilst the public celebration of Mass remains some way off yet, within the parish the LiveStream of daily Mass continues to be available to all via our parish website.