+ Fri 22nd – A parish proposal forward in COVID times – A letter to the parish
Dear friends –
Today’s Parish Blog post is a letter to the parish to see if there are people who would be keen to share some leadership to have the church open for a few periods each week. This letter is in written form – and is also shared via a voice recording if you would prefer to listen. See the recording inserted into the blog post.
As you know, I have a full time role working for the diocese which adds to my keenness to have other people involved in things we can offer the parish. But whether or not I was tied up a lot working elsewhere, faith community leadership isn’t about ‘helping the priest’. Rather, it’s about our baptism and our shared dignity to participate in the leading of God’s mission. Exercising such leadership at the church and for the parish is clearly not the only way this happens. Various people of the parish have very active and committed faith leadership in all sorts of other ways. The parish community is, however, a special network and foundation of our common belonging in God’s mission and so its ministries and channels of leadership are precious priorities.
THE FOLLOWING IS SIMPLY A VOICE RECORDING OF THIS SAME LETTER TO THE PARISH TODAY IF YOU WOULD PREFER TO LISTEN THAN READ
>>>click the triangle play button to listen<<<
CHURCH OPENINGS IN A TIME OF RESTRICTION TO TEN PEOPLE
I’ve been seeking consultation with parish leadership committees and trying to think of how a mid week step forward in terms of church openings might 1. be possible and 2. benefit the most people? We can’t open the church unsupervised, even for short periods! There are strict guidelines around what has to happen with sanitiser, designated seating, recording details of anyone who enters the church, seat cleaning after use etc. Whilst the chances of infection might be low – and whilst to some the requirements seem quite demanding – any public place such as a church, that could be observed by a member of the public as under-doing the requirements, runs the risk of being presumed careless or of legal challenge. These are among the reasons why I’m taking a very cautious approach to any opening of the church. The simplest response would be to open to ten people at our mid week Mass times, have them record details, sanitise, pray Mass, clean the seats then close again. Before doing that, I’d like us to try something that might have ongoing benefits and opportunities.
IN A NUTSHELL, IMAGINE SOMETHING LIKE THIS:
–advertise all around that the church is open for two? morning times a week (and maybe? also one afternoon or early evening time) – for about two hours each time
–leaders/coordinators rostered for parts of each open time (always in pairs)
-a ministry of welcome to people as they arrive – with a sharing of the basic requirements eg: sanitiser as people enter / friendly recording of details for govt. regulation / 10 designated seating locations if they wish to sit (also welcome to remain standing if preferred ) / disinfectant wipes ready to wipe the seat area after
-exposition/adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar
-atmosphere in the church with background music playing / candles lit etc
-reflection/prayer sheets given for people to use in the church and take home (and/or changing visual slides on the screens)
-a gentle ding of a bell if extra people have been waiting to get in, which would indicate politely for someone to self select and leave the church who might have been there a good while (and this would be communicated as people are welcomed)
-includes the opportunity for our school children to do a special prayer visit to the church in small groups (our school principal Donna has indicated keenness )
-such an idea, ideally at least, could allow many more than ten to come along to the church during an opening time – and it also might?? have the effect of encouraging a church visit as an ongoing practice later. It might?? also have the effect of encouraging some parishioners to assist with such leadership/welcoming/co-ordination for ongoing activity in our church and parish beyond COVID
I MIGHT BE MISREADING THIS !!!
So, currently our Wednesday Mass is being partly streamed / and partly participant-led / using the layout and guidance prepared each week in the blog along with voice recordings and with just the second part of that Mass – that is, the liturgy of the Eucharist part being streamed. This takes a lot more work than it would require to open up and have a small Mass for ten. BUT with school groups and others now also accessing that approach – and with some parishioners telling me they look forward to this sharing in the leading of prayer on Wednesday – I’m hoping and trusting that if we continue this for a little while longer, it might?? be contributing to assisting a growth in people’s leadership.
Am I being overly idealistic? Maybe!
Should we waver towards being overly idealistic in order for a bit of idealism to break through? Hmmm.
It’s no doubt a lot more about having faith – about trying and trusting – than about black and white correctness in deciding various steps ahead in life, including these parish steps. And so, of course there is more than one possibility. I certainly admit that I might be misreading this. But I invite us as a parish to ponder some of the thoughts in this blog post – rather than only considering what any one of us might personally and understandably prefer.
MY CAUTION – AND SUGGESTED HOPE
My caution is that if we just open up, back to the previous Mass schedule etc but with miniature numbers, we are simply ‘going back’ and doing so on small scale. Rather, can this historic and challenging time of COVID in the world stretch us to transform in some ways as a parish? I’d like to link this process to us being an Easter people. The resurrection of Jesus wasn’t a ‘going back’ to his previous state. It was a transformation to a new way of being. As COVID numbers continue so devastatingly in the world, I wonder if we can spiritually honour that grief in some kind of Easter way? I wonder if we can honour it by saying to God that we will strive to use this time to stretch and grow, to welcome whatever grace of transformation might be possible? Maybe we can ask some of those precious people who have died unexpectedly of COVID – perhaps especially some who were motivated leaders in faith communities – to intercede for us here at Our Lady of the Way – and inspire us in some next steps together.
OKAY, SO THERE’S MY BLURB! THANK YOU FOR READING
ANYONE KEEN AND ABLE TO SHARE THE LEADERSHIP?
The next step is practical – to ask if anyone feels able and keen to share the necessary leadership and coordination of this proposal. I have suggested above that his proposal, if it is able to happen, might be for a couple of morning times in the week and maybe an early evening time??? Obviously some who are employed in specific hours would be restricted in their ability to help with this and some particularly more senior aged people will have health sensitivities. But let’s put it out there and see who might feel called to help or support in some way. You are welcome to send a message with your name and contact number to secretary Chrissy’s parish office email which is firstname.lastname@example.org or to leave a message on the parish number 47351041. Likewise you are most welcome to jot any responses to this letter, even something brief, to the parish office email.
See you in the next parish blog post and ..
with friendship in God’s mission,