Re-Opening of our Churches for Mass from this Sunday (4th July)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Greetings and blessings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is, I hope anyway, a letter that you have been hoping to receive for some time. It is to do with the plans we have for celebrating Holy Mass once again as a gathered community in our churches in Cranleigh and Bramley. I ask you to read what lies below carefully as I hope, not only to share with you what we are going to do, but also why. I also hope that you might find the opportunity to give thanks for each small step along the pilgrim journey we are on and to accept each small blessing as a grace and a sign of God’s provident love.
This coming weekend I propose to celebrate a mass at St Thomas More at 9am – and also at 11am on Sunday at Jesus Christ Redeemer of Mankind and, provided that both of these run smoothly, to reintroduce a Vigil Mass at an earlier time of 5pm on Saturday evenings from the following weekend.
I will also continue with the celebration of weekday Masses at the usual times of Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 10am and Wednesday evening at 7pm. The Tuesday mass will be at St Thomas More’s as there is now an added complication in all masses.
This is that we must adhere to the requirements for physical distancing inside our Church buildings. This is set at 2m. In addition, we must adhere to a strict sanitizing regime before each celebration and have two ‘welcomers’ present to ensure the guidelines are kept to and, what is more, and easy to forget in these strange times, to welcome people back into their church. The two metre rule severely restricts the numbers who can attend a celebration.
The numbers are:
Cranleigh 28 plus celebrant
Bramley 23 plus celebrant
In addition to these rules I propose to only slowly reintroduce some of the things we usually do – like readers, ministers and servers. Mass will stay the same as you may have seen it done on our Livestream. It will take time to find suitable readers and to teach them about the new rules that apply. There is no need for any ministers due to the size of congregations, and servers operate too close to the celebrant to be within the ‘rules’. If you are happy to be included as a Reader for the future perhaps you could let me know, please. Due to the need for preparation you will need to be able to make a firm commitment to the ministry. There will be only one reader per Mass. We will also need some Teams of Welcomers – so please volunteer. If we have no volunteers we will not open for mass.
The newly released guidelines set, as a kind of clear directive, the goal of limiting the amount of time that people from different households and ‘bubbles’ spend in close proximity to each other and what we can do. To that end, Mass is to be as reasonably short as it can be and still retain its own dignity. Thus, there are to be no General Intercessions (Bidding Prayers), no Offertory Procession, no singing by anyone apart from, perhaps, the celebrant if there is enough physical distance. You may not use any missals, Bibles, or other printed material that you aren’t going to take away with you. So, may I suggest that this is a really good time to buy a Sunday and Weekday Missal for your own use. There are some new rules for receiving Holy Communion which we will learn as we go along. These are not burdensome but may catch you out if you are not expecting them.
In addition to this we cannot use toilets (unless that is we have a Team of Volunteer Cleaners to clean them thoroughly after each mass). We cannot have coffee after mass in the Hall but we can use the Hall as an ‘annex’ to the church where you can watch Mass on our TV and then receive Holy Communion. That is an advance on the Livestreaming experience. This too will need welcomers to help visitors understand what is required.
Speaking of Livestreaming, I intend to keep it going into the future – and certainly for this next period as we adjust to new things every week. I know that many of you have found this surprisingly spiritually nourishing.
This takes me to the thorny issue of who, exactly, can come to Mass each week.
The first thing is to acknowledge that there is currently no Sunday Obligation to attend Mass. This is likely to continue for the foreseeable future and this means that you can, perhaps, go to mass on a different day of the week instead of Sunday. I would envisage that you attend Sunday Mass once a month, and a weekday mass each week in between. It maybe that we need a more sophisticated system than we have presently, but I hope that you will understand that, if we have reached our numbers ceiling and you arrive, you may not come in, not because we don’t want you (we do) but because we may not.
Monday – Fr David’s Day off
Tuesday – Mass at St Thomas More 10am
Wednesday – Mass at Jesus Christ Redeemer of Mankind 7pm
Thursday – Mass at Jesus Christ Redeemer of Mankind 10am
Friday – Mass at Jesus Christ Redeemer of Mankind 10am
Saturday – Vigil Mass at Jesus Christ Redeemer of Mankind 5pm (not 4thJuly)
Sunday – Mass at St Thomas More at 9am
– Mass at Jesus Christ Redeemer of Mankind at 11am
All Masses at Jesus Christ Redeemer of Mankind will be livestreamed on YouTube.
Finally brothers and sisters,
please pray for your priests and deacons who are all very tired at this time; for all our healthcare workers, for those who are shielding or who are ill, for those who are bereaved and those who are dying. We are all God’s family and he loves us and wants us all to flourish.
With my love and prayers too.