How many of you are ready to return to Our Savior for Mass??!! No—don’t put up your hands. I think I can guess! I wish it were just that simple. After long deliberation, it’s the judgment of the staff at Our Savior that we will remain with “private” Masses (Reconciliation still 4-5 pm Saturdays, on the porch) until Pentecost weekend (30-31 May). This might change, too; we want to see how the COVID-19 crisis in Mobile either eases or increases.
When we finally do open up for “public” Masses, we’ll still have to abide by the State and Chancery protocols, of course. We don’t want to be the folks who unintentionally cause another spike in COVID-19 cases. How will we balance this?
Strict marking off of rows of seats and seats within rows will be enforced. Sadly, if no families attended Mass, we’d be limited to about 65 in our church! Given other considerations (including fear of transmitting to others leaving/returning to pews after Communion), that number might be as low as 30. Of course, with households with multiple members, the numbers would be higher. But they’d still be very low compared with what we’re used to. We will have to figure out a way for folks to make “reservations” to attend Mass—“first-come, first-served” would be a recipe for anger, frustration, and great disappointment for too many.
The requirements of disinfecting will certainly complicate things. Water fountains and bathrooms will be closed; the “cry room” will allow only 1 family. We will need to have sign-in rosters on the porch before Mass perhaps with non-touch thermometers, in order to track things if anything goes wrong with infection. You will be STRONGLY encouraged to come to church wearing masks (though these are not allowed for receiving the Eucharist).
Getting people into the church in an orderly way (= 6’ of separation) would be hard enough, but not nearly as difficult as getting people to leave that way! 6’ of separation, single-file, going straight to cars… You can see how many folks would be very unsatisfied by these requirements. But if we cannot follow them we cannot have a “public” Mass. And no—the Archbishop does not allow outside Masses.
We are taping off rows of pews and marking seats; we are removing hymnals and supplements; we are laying out a flow-pattern for coming to Communion. We will have to discourage (I don’t believe I’m writing this) singing by the congregation: the risks of spreading infection are multiple times more likely with singing than speaking because of the projection that singing entails—unless EVERYONE is wearing a mask. We’ll be starting out with just a musician and a cantor.
There will be no Special Ministers of Holy Communion as I alone am authorized to administer the Sacrament (Body of Christ only); I’ll have to figure out about Lectors. No servers will be permitted.
Is this really the “new ab-normal”? Abnormal, certainly! New—absolutely! Will it last? PTL, and with much prayer and proper precautions, no. The Italians have a saying: Chi va piano, va sano e lontano (Whoever goes slowly, goes safely, and goes a long way.). That’s our goal.