Safe Use of Places of Worship

Government Guidance for Places of Worship from 4th January, 2021: 

You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle inside the church building with anyone outside of your household or support bubble.  You should maintain strict social distancing at all times.  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

Communal worship and life events - You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral or event related to a death, a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony. You should follow the guidance on the safe use of places of worship and must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble when attending a place of worship.  Weddings, funerals and religious, belief-based or commemorative events linked to someone’s death are all subject to limits on the numbers that can attend, and weddings and civil ceremonies may only take place in exceptional circumstances.

 

SOCIAL  DISTANCING.  Please remember that it is the responsibility of us all, both as individuals and as a church community, to follow the Government’s guidelines in this area and to ensure that we are respectful of the needs and concerns of others at all times.  When inside the church building we are now asked not to mingle with other people unless they are from our own household or support bubble.

 

BAPTISMS.  During the current national lock-down, baptism are not permitted, except in the case where the person to be baptised is in extremis, that is in danger of death.

 

FUNERALS.  Attendance at funeral services in church is limited to thirty mourners by the Government. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic

 

CONTACT  TRACING.  Having re-opened the church for public worship in July, we are now moving on to the next phase of managing the risk of the Covid-19 pandemic.  From the beginning of October, in order to support the NHS Test and Trace programme, we are taking contact details (name and telephone number) for all parishioners and visitors to the parish, as well as recording the date and the time of the service you attended in St. Thomas’s Church at Woodbridge or in St. Clare’s Church at Framlingham.  One name per family is sufficient.  Please write these details on a piece of paper before you come to Mass, and bring it with you.  Alternatively, you may give your name and contact detail to the Stewards on duty when you arrive.  In line with guidance issued by the Department for Health and Social Care, we will keep your details safely and in compliance with GDPR legislation for 21 days before securely disposing of or deleting them. We will only share your details with NHS Test and Trace, if asked, in the event that it is needed to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. We will not use your details for any other purposes or pass them on to anyone else.  However, giving contact details is optional and is not a condition of attending your place of worship.

 

  • Guidelines issued by the Government on 29th June, 2020, for the safe use of places of worship:

  • 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 currently advised not 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

 

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”.

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”. 
  • 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.
  • The wearing of face coverings while inside places of worship is mandatory.

 

Fr. Edmund Eggleston.

Parish Priest.

Updated 8th January, 2021.


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