Re-opening our Churches Guidelines

Re-opening churches in the Ballisodare Group of Parishes

Our services will commence on July 5th.  In order to get used to the new normal we will begin simply and then add elements as we feel able.

This excellent short video has been produced by our friends in Dublin and Glendalough Dioceses.  It may well be of interest to us in TKA.  Most of what is said here will apply to us but please remember to take note of LOCAL variations should there be any.

The video includes everything you need to know about getting back in the Ballisodare Group of churches.  The main points are the text below.

 

The keys to everything in getting back safely are:

  • Hand hygiene
  • Respiratory hygiene
  • Social Distancing

We have all got used to these important constraints in other situations and so we are merely translating that into our own context of church however, we may need to update this depending on our experience.

The very first and important factor is that you should still not attend if you (or anyone in your household) may have come in contact with COVID-19.

If you are in an at-risk group I suggest you make your own judgement following this training session.

Our services will be shorter than they used to be as the risk of transmission of COVID-19 is related to duration of contact as well as proximity.

The church will remain closed from Sunday to Sunday.  No one should enter outside of service times, so no just popping in. (This will also mean that cleaning will not be required from week to week)

You may wish to wear a face mask for your own peace of mind but this is currently not obligatory if social distancing can be maintained.  The currently advice does not require the wearing of a mask but we will inform you if it changes.

There are to be no flowers in church.

Parents are asked to bring things that will be fun for their children should they be necessary.  Colouring and word searches will still be available on entry. There will not be any sharing of colouring pencils for example.  Sadly, there will be no Sunday Club until further notice but we will be looking to see what we can do online.  Julie has already had a go and this and I thank her for that.

Use of the toilets is not permitted.

Entry to church

Whoever opens the church and switches on lights etc. must be the person who turns them off etc.

Please do not congregate in car park or at the church door.  Try and pace your entry into church and ensure social distancing.

Doors will remain wide open unless the weather conditions make that difficult.  In these circumstances, one person will be assigned to operate the door handle.

As you enter the church there will be a table with a hand sanitiser station, a collection plate for your offering, the notice sheet and children’s activity sheet to pick up.  Please do not lick the end of your finger to pick up any of the sheets or hang around the table but move into church.

Members of the same household may share the same pew although you may have to sit somewhere else for the service.  Having looked at each church, closing off certain pews would not be that easy for any of the churches so we are planning to let those who arrive first to sit in their regular pew and then others will be accommodated as they arrive to another pew if necessary.  We would ask that you sit at either end of the pew to facilitate social distancing.  That is, if you are first in please sit close to the wall which would then allow someone to sit in the pew in front or behind on the aisle.  For large family groups that may mean leaving the pew in front and behind empty.

Since you may not be able to sit in the same seat every week I am recommending that if you have your own private service books you remove them at the end of each service and bring them back the following week.

If you do not have your own service books then please pick up a set as you enter and return at the end of the service.  If they remain untouched for the week then they will be safe.

During the service

Social distancing rules apply during services.

Singing will be introduced once we are familiar with the current routine.

The leader of the service will take the entire service to avoid movement and physical contact with surfaces.

Collections will not be taken but plates will be available when you enter the church.  They will also not be presented but the prayer of thanksgiving will still be said. Parishioners are encouraged to consider setting up standing orders for their offerings.

The collection will either be counted and those responsible must sanitise their hands immediately following the count or the collection may kept in the safe until the following week and then counted.)

A church warden will make a list of attendance each week (for possible contact tracing use) and kept in the safe for 28 days.  It will then be destroyed in line with GDPR rules.

Holy Communion

Our Holy Communion services are on the 3rd Sunday so I am planning on going ahead on July 19th.  They will be pretty much as the last one we had before shutdown.

There will be no physical exchange of peace at Holy Communion Services.

The president will cleanse their hands thoroughly with an alcohol based sanitiser before the preparing of the Holy Table and the saying of the Eucharistic prayer.  The president will repeat the cleansing of their hands before the breaking and distribution.  In order to avoid movement the president will come to you for the distribution.  They will wear a mask for the distribution.  The president will drop the bread into your cupped hands.  Communion will be given in one kind only.

The setting up of communion can be undertaken as usual, in terms of linen, although only a paten will be needed.  The celebrant will bring the bread, their own ‘chalice’ and wine.  The celebrant will only touch the paten and will wipe it with a suitable wipe at the end of distribution.  This should then be washed in hot soapy water.  This could be done at home with the paten returned the following week as sufficient time will elapse before it is used again.

Leaving church

Following the minister, parishioners are asked to leave by pew, those nearest the exit door first.  Parishioners are asked to move away from the door quickly and maintain social distancing.  Those who need to return for any reason must maintain the required social distancing and hygiene requirements.

After service

There is to be no post-service tea & coffee.

Cleaning of Churches

Under normal circumstances there will be no cleaning required.

It is recommended then that funerals take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays as this would allow 72 hours before the church is occupied again.  If this cannot happen it may be necessary to cancel a service in a particular church on the Sunday closest to the funeral to allow a minimum 72 hours to elapse before the church is occupied again.

Remote services

Services and other ‘remote’ spiritual supports by myself and the diocese will continue to be provided for parishioners who cannot attend church in person.

Suspected Case

Given the duration of the service it is highly unlikely that someone would fall ill during the service however we have to have a plan for at least 2 people in this scenario.  This means that one church warden, would put on gloves and a mask and escort the person to a separate well ventilated location until a safe pick up can be arranged.

In Ballisodare, this would mean the church hall where doors would be left open.  The first person would be placed by the fire door, a second by the entrance door should that occur.

In Collooney, the first person would be escorted to the reading room and seated near the exit door.  A second person would be situated by the door to church.

In Ballymote, the first person would be escorted to the toilet as there is an external door.  A second person would be placed in the kitchen.

Should this ever occur then a cleaning regime would be implemented.

We have been very fortunate in our part of the world with very few cases of Covid-19.  If we continue to adhere to what I have outlined then it should remain that way if we all play our part.

Thank you for your co-operation and God bless you all.

 

Andrew Ison