Guidelines issued by the Government on 29th June 2020:
Individuals aged 70 years and over attending the place of worship
- Certain groups of people may be at increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, including people who are aged 70 or older, regardless of medical conditions.
- Individuals who fall within this group are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household.
- Churches should consider informing these groups in particular of the symptoms of COVID-19 and current stay alert and social distancing guidance.
Individuals who are extremely clinically vulnerable/shielding
The NHS has written to around 2.2. million who are considered to be extremely clinically vulnerable to COVID-19, advising them to shield. See the current guidance for this group. Shielded patients are currently advised not to meet more than one person from outside of their own household, and therefore not currently advised to attend places of worship.
From Monday 6 July, those shielding individuals may choose to gather in groups of up to 6 people outdoors and form a support bubble with another household, they will therefore still be advised not to attend places of worship indoors. Advice for both the clinically vulnerable and extremely clinically vulnerable is however advisory and they can choose how to manage their own risks.
To read the Government's full guidelines document, please click on this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-from-4-july/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-from-4-july#annex-a-risk-assessment-for-protective-security--factors-to-consider
- Our churches will re-open for Mass from Saturday 4th July
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference has issued detailed “Guidelines” which parishes are required to implement for the safe re-opening of churches for the public celebration of Holy Mass during the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. What is written below is taken from those “Guidelines”.
The plan is to celebrate Mass at the usual times at Woodbridge and at Framlingham from Saturday, 4th July, 2020. However, there are many restrictions and the details will continue to be formed over the coming weeks. The Government maintains that the 2 metres social distancing requirements should be applied wherever possible.
Current plans for attending Mass in our parish
These may still need to be adapted and may evolve further, but the current approach, following the Guidelines issued by the Catholic Bishops' Conference, is:-
To meet the requirement of 2 metre social distancing
- Pews and chairs are spaced at two metre intervals in the church. A family from the same house can sit with each other. A couple from the same house can sit together, as can people in a social bubble.
- Other people in the church must keep the 2 metres rule, which means only two people can sit on each pew.
- Please note that these measures have significantly reduced the seating capacity of our churches at Woodbridge and at Framlingham. In St. Thomas’s Church at Woodbridge we can now accommodate 25 people at a time and in St. Clare’s Church at Framlingham we can accommodate 24 people at a time. These numbers are based on two people sitting on a pew, at 2 metres apart.
- During the course of a week, Holy Mass is celebrated seven times. This gives a seating capacity for 173 people each week.
- The above numbers can be increased when people from the same family household or social bubble sit together on the same pew.
- However, please be prepared that the church may be full when you arrive for Mass, and you might need to return another day.
- Our bishops have told us that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended and that may mean attending Mass on a weekday rather than on a Sunday.
Other restrictions and requirements we are required to observe include:-
- Two stewards will be on duty at each Mass, as with the recent opening of churches for private prayer, to direct people on the safe way to use our churches, to make sure that social distancing is maintained and, if necessary, to limit the number of people in the church.
- Please use hand sanitiser upon entering the church and again when leaving the building.
- No singing at Mass (and therefore no hymnbooks).
- The usual printed Sunday Mass sheets will be available. However, parishioners are required to take them home with them, and not to leave them in the church at the end of Mass.
- No altar servers or Lay Ministers of Holy Communion will be required at the present time.
- There will be one reader at Mass.
- The homily must be brief and there will be no Prayer of the Faithful (bidding prayers). This is to minimise the time during which the congregation is inside the church.
- There must be no Offertory Procession, and collections are not to be taken during Mass. Parishioners are encouraged to give to the parish via on-line banking or a monthly Standing Order (and grateful thanks to those people who already support the parish in this way). For people who do not wish to do this, there will be a collection plate near the church door.
- There will be no physical exchange of the Sign of Peace.
- As the congregation approaches the altar to receive Holy Communion, great care should be taken to maintain 2 metres social distancing.
- The priest will distribute Holy Communion on his own, in one kind. The chalice containing the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ will not be distributed to the faithful at this time.
- Holy Communion will be administered in silence. When giving Holy Communion, the priest will not say “The Body of Christ” to each communicant, and the communicant will not say, “Amen”. Instead, before the Holy Communion begins the priest will say to all collectively, “The Body of Christ”, and all will reply together, “Amen”.
- A prie-dieu is to be placed between the priest and the communicant when Holy Communion is administered, to ensure social distancing.
- As soon as the Mass has finished, the church must be closed whilst cleaning takes place.
- The church toilets are locked and will not be available.
- There must be no refreshments served after Mass.
- People who wish to wear face masks while attending Mass may do so.
Fr. Edmund Eggleston.
4th July, 2020.