STEP 4 from 19/7 : What will change at St Mary’s?
The Prime Minister’s announcement about Stage 4 of the roadmap was clear and realistic in asserting that the pandemic—which of course, continues to affect many countries in a very serious way—is, even in these largely vaccinated islands, “far from over”
Whilst distancing, masks and the ban on congregational singing are lifted, it does therefore behove us to react sensitively and cautiously. Our first steps, outlined below, have been informed by this overriding consideration.
Administration of the Blessed Sacrament
> We will continue to administer in one kind and, for the moment, from the chancel step.
The likelihood of infection from a modestly alcoholic drink taken from a metal vessel is low, as has been stressed particularly since the discussions in the light of HIV; but, since the fullness of Jesus’ gift of himself is received in one kind, it seems sensible to continue for now to receive the host and not the chalice as well.
One reason for not using the altar rails is that those sitting in the restricted area of the church (see below) should not be forced to break their distancing.
Another reason is that the service will be streamed and data protection rules forbid facial shots of people. The streaming from an iPhone that has worked well over the past year will be replaced by system that allows different angles to be used (and also removes the trip hazard from the chancel), but we will need to wait for the PCC’s final decision and the granting of a faculty before this can be fully operational.
> These are not required, though many will feel more comfortable continuing to wear them: please do as you wish, but give priority in your consideration to what would make others most comfortable.
(If sitting in the restricted area of the church, it may be more logical to continue to wear masks out of consideration to others in that area.)
Distancing: seating and the Peace
Whilst there will be no legal requirement to distance ourselves, the option to do so will be left open. Some people will be more comfortable doing so while there is a continuing risk of infection. Other people, returning to church for the first time in more than a year will find the transition to physical presence to be eased by being able to distance.
> The rear half of the church and the north aisle will therefore remain marked for distanced occupation and the front half and the south aisle will be opened fully.
> Those sitting in the unrestricted part of the church are at liberty to exchange the peace in the “old normal” way. Those sitting in the restricted part should do so by gesture, not by contact.
Please note that this will require everyone to be flexible: you may need to sit where you haven’t been used to sitting!
> The congregation will be able to join in singing hymns and settings.
> Choral singing serves primarily to beautify our offering of worship and those involved know very well that a fitting offering takes effort and practice. Those choristers who feel ready to return to duty will resume singing on August 1st so as to allow time for the choir to come back up to speed.
> Children’s services will return to music and singing with effect from September.
> Sung/Choral Evensong (and Benediction) will return in September, so as not to overload the choir.
> It will take a little time to revive rotas for servers, readers, intercessors and sidesmen; but this is a work in hand and progress.
Because the sanctuary is cramped at St Mary’s, the initial team will be reduced to one server only.
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