If you are not in one of the vulnerable groups – and you don’t mind a bit of form-filling – why not volunteer to help your church to open for private prayer?
If your Parish Priest has asked for volunteers via the Parish Website or social media, feel free to contact him direct – otherwise, email email@example.com in the first instance, confirming that you’re not in any of the vulnerable groups, and if your parish is one of those which is not yet being able to open a church for private prayer because of needing volunteers, your details and generous offer to help will be forwarded as appropriate…Thank you in advance!
Representations made by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) to the Prime Minister, and his announcement giving permission that some places of worship may be opened for individual private prayer was, of course, only on the proviso that this can be done safely.
Since last month, in our own Diocese, a Steering Group comprising senior clergy, the Diocesan Health and Safety Officer and the Property Office has been planning and making site-visits to assess around 100 churches in our 79 parishes for safe opening for individual, private prayer – on or around 4 July. When that date was brought forward with a week’s notice, the Health and Safety checks and other necessities for opening some churches safely were stepped up.
From Monday, 15 June 2020, churches in our Diocese are being allowed to begin opening for individual prayer. The conditions for this, agreed by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) in collaboration with the Government’s Task Force, include physical-distancing, stewarding and sanitising measures. This does not mean that every church in our Diocese will be able to open immediately, and it may be that several churches will not be able to open for some time. When churches do open, individual parishes will publicise opening times and days, depending on the availability of volunteer stewards and with social-distancing arrangements having been put in place.
Churches will not be open during the celebration of Mass, nor any liturgy, nor for any celebration of the Sacraments, nor Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament – as these all are defined as ‘Public Worship’, which is not yet able to recommence under the Government’s current restrictions.
Some of the measures those who go to a church can expect to see include:
- Separated entrance and exits, a signposted ‘one way’ system, and a seating layout suitable for two-metre physical-separation.
- At least two volunteer stewards on duty throughout the period of time a church is open, who are able to monitor the number of people in the church and undertake appropriate cleaning arrangements. The Guidance is that stewards ‘should not be drawn from those instructed to shield themselves, nor from groups considered more vulnerable to coronavirus’.
- No-one under 18 may volunteer or be admitted to the building unless accompanied by an adult member of their own household.
The latest Guidance from the CBCEW may be read here