We are still open for public Masses, but while infection rates remain high, we will still be observing some social-distancing practice within the church for the medium-term future (see below), though advance booking is no longer needed if you wish to come to any of the Sunday Masses, (For Weekday Mass at 0930 it was always okay just to turn up.)
NB Llive-streaming of Masses ceased from 10th October. See Fr Jonathan’s message in that day’s newsletter here. Briefly, this service, which has been useful to those who could not attend Mass in person during the stricter phases of lockdown, is now only being used by a very small number of people ; with the church now fully open and seating capacity back to near-normal, yet with provision made for those with a medical need to preserve social; distancing and those who are still understandably nervous, there is much less reason to offer an alternative to actual attendance, which is what we should all be aiming at if we can at all; also, it places an extra (though minor) burden on our priests, and has never really been achieved to the quality we would wish; finally the lengthy wires necessary to get an internet connection signal into the church are increasingly a trip hazard. We will continue experimenting to improve the service and may restore it if there is demand from people genuinely housebound.
Here is a summary of the way we will continue to handle things over the next few weeks:
Seating arrangements – we have brought back most of the “soft seats” from the Upper Room They have not all been restored at once, so that bigger gaps can be left between rows, and also the aisle on the right side of the nave (looking towards the sanctuary) will be left as a “distanced” area, with plastic seats, to be used specifically by those who have special reasons to be concerned about infection, such as deficient immunity etc. See photos below. If you are going to use these “safe seats” it is even more expected that you will also be wearing a mask., to make others feel safe.
Face-masks- are again COMPULSORY in churches, since the “Plan B” announcement on 10th Dec 21. Please continue to use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the church.
Singing by congregation – is permitted, though you are requested to sing “through your mask” if you can. Hymnbooks are only to be used at the 11am Mass, and then will remain untouched for a week.
Sign of peace – to remain “contactless ” until otherwise advised
Receiving Holy Communion – On weekdays, Communicants come forward in a queue to the centre gap (as per pre-pandemic ). Please leave a substantial distance between you and the person in front, and do not form a longer queue than necessary. i.e. remain in your seat until the last person to get up from the row moving forward before yours has done so. On Sundays, at the moment we are operating a one-way system whereby those in the rearmost “side-aisle ” seats come forward first, approaching by the side aisles, receiving Communion from positions at the ends of the altar rails, and returning up the centre aisle ; followed by those in the centre blocks, starting from the back, also approaching from the sides and returning up the centre. All those willing to do so are requested to receive the Body of Christ reverently in their outstretched hand. Those wishing to receive the Host on their tongue are requested to come up once all the others have received, and to kneel along the altar rail, to make it easier for Father to count heads. They will then receive Communion from a separate paten.
Communion from the Chalice will not be available for the time being, until we are directed otherwise by the Bishop.
Collection baskets – the ordinary first-collection at weekends will resume being taken by collectors bringing baskets to you. Please do not pass the baskets “along the row”, and as always we ask you to make your regular donation by Standing Order rather than physical cash (needing handling and banking ) if you can. Second collections will continue to be taken by static baskets at the exits.
Use of the Upper Room – back in service, but limited until it is completely cleared of the downstairs chairs.
Lighting candles – this much-valued form of private prayer is available again, but please have consideration for your neighbours and do not spend any longer than you can help over your prayers, as others are likely to be waiting in a queue to do the same. And if you have to queue, do keep some distance between you.
The speed at which we restore all our practices back to pre-March 2020 “normal ” will be determined by how safe our people feel, so do please let us know your thoughts on the above points and other features you can think of. You may like to consult the Catholic Bishops’ Conference guidelines available here. Like many others, we had hoped that by Christmas or early 2022 we would have been able to restore full seating capacity, but the high infection numbers caused by the Omicron variant are causing us to remain cautious, and we just have to pray that it will not get so bad that HMG compel the closure of churches again ! As of 27th Dec the signals are favourable, with indications that funerals and weddings, at least, will not return to limited-numbers.
If anything changes, we will post it up on here as soon as we can. Watch this space !
Opportunities for private prayer will continue, The church will generally now be kept open each day from after the morning Mass to the early evening. We rely on you to sanitise your hands on entry, and to clean any surface you have touched- and not to sit or stand close to any one you do not live with.
To repeat, it is now mandatory to wear a face covering when you come to Church (this includes non-Mass services).
We are still operating under some degree of social distancing, to help our parishioners feel safe in coming back to church.
So even as we bring back the usual “soft seats “we are still keeping reduced the amount of seating in the Church, increasing it only slowly if and as more people seem to be returning to Mass, More room than usual is being left between the rows, and the kneelers have been left out (bring your own cushion or pad !) This is what things now look like . . . .
There is a “distanced area ” to right of the main nave for those who might still feel unsafe sitting close to others. And if you wish to have a clear space left next to you in the main nave, there are seat-cards for this purpose at the entrances.
If you have a smartphone with the NHS App installed, please “check in ” as you enter the church -there is a poster with the QR code on the left of the main-porch inner doors.
Below are the current opening times of the other churches in our Pastoral Area. For updates, check their websites, which are easy to find via Google
St John Henry Newman parish : (OLG = Our Lady of Grace, Squirrel lane, Booker.)
Sunday Mass ; 9am, (St Wulstans), 11:30 (OLG). Weekdays; 10am St W Tues, 10am OLG Friday. Also live-streamed Masses Mon & Thurs 10am, not open to the public. Nothing said about private-prayer times. It may be that some churches ceased these opportunities when able to open for public Mass
St Teresa’s, Warwick Road, Beaconsfield – Mass times 6pm Saturday and 0930 Sunday (Beaconsfield), 1030 (Bourne End). Nothing said about private-prayer times.. The 0930 Mass is live-streamed.
St Peter’s, Marlow – Mass times 9,11 am and 5:30pm. It is not stated whether any of these are still live-streamed. Nor do they say anything about private-prayer times
St Josephs at Gerrards Cross has re-opened for some public Masses – important to check their website to see which ones. All their Masses and services are live-streamed.
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