The reopening of the churches for Mass on June 29th is in a sense a new beginning for the faithful, for priests and all who belong in the family of faith. Pope Francis was reflecting during the week on the possibility that some things will change now, that a new church will emerge from this long period of prayer and reflection that has been happening while we have been fasting from the Eucharist, staying apart from family and friends and waiting for the pandemic to pass. So, are we going to return to ‘normal’ or will there be new shoots in the garden of the church? The honest answer is none of us really knows.

The experience of being away from Mass won’t really affect those who rarely come to Mass! The real sense of disappointment and loss felt by the children all ready for First Communion and Confirmation, with their families was very real and will no doubt be remembered for many years to come.  For those with the habit of weekly and daily attendance at Mass there will be a discernment as to whether this is the right moment to return, for some it will be a simple yes, for others there will be an extension to the waiting as anxiety, underlying conditions or care for other members of the household will make it difficult to gather in a crowd.

This past week, since the rules were relaxed, has meant when we are out and about there are many more people sharing the common space. So now social distancing is more difficult and maybe more important, and whether to wear masks or not a much more pressing concern.

In our parishes, as a response to the Bishop’s guidelines, a COVID 19 committee is looking at the space inside the churches, measuring distances, closing off seats, setting up sanitation points, putting signage on doors, markers on floors and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

But no matter what we do to prepare we don’t know whether the space we have, for the numbers we can safely accommodate will be sufficient. We will struggle to cope if more people come and logically we have to close the doors, turn away those who want to enter and pray.

We will only find peace if everyone is thinking of others. We will all need to change at least a little! It will take more time to assemble and be ready for Mass, so come early! Sanitising at the doors will mean waiting in line, some people will wisely bring their own sanitiser and help speed up that process.

Finding our way to the ‘green’ seats which are available, avoiding the red seats which are closed off, maintaining the 2 metres distancing. Avoiding the church completely if we have a head cold, coughs and sniffles just won’t work when inside with others.

Working out the best way to distribute communion, managing to cater for the senior members of the community, integrating music, using missalettes just the once, surviving without toilets, using a different door, all of these little changes will be demanding for us.

If it does happen that the ‘church full’ notice means you can’t come in, then please be generous enough to come back to a later Mass, or come to a Mass during the week, perhaps log in when you get home and watch the Mass on the website.

We are a supportive community and these coming weeks will be an opportunity to put our patience, resilience and community spirit into action.

Thank you in advance for your co-operation. If you have any thoughts or ideas then please drop me a line or chat to one of the COVID 19 committee members. I am so looking forward to seeing your smiling faces in front of me when celebrating the Mass, as we pray together.