Church of England Diocese of Blackburn Ashton-on-Ribble, St. Michael and All Angels with Preston St. Mark

To mask or not to mask?

10 Jul 2021, 12:15 p.m.

To mask or not to mask, that is the question.

Following the Prime Minister’s press conference held on Monday, 5th July it was announced that rules surrounding social distancing and the use of masks would become a matter of personal choice rather than mandated by law. The ‘unlock’ effectively returns society to a pre pandemic state although infection rates continue to increase exponentially at the current time.

The Prime Minster noted that lab tested infections would be running at 50,000 a day by 19th July and the Health Secretary said that number would likely double in due course to around 100,000.

In this context, the Director of Public Health for Lancashire has advised that in enclosed spaces where people mingle and meet that masks should continue to be worn until the ‘double vaccination’ percentage is 90%. The average for Preston currently stands at 59%.

Given that many members of our congregation remain clinically vulnerable and that some 40% of people have not been fully vaccinated we ought, out of Christian concern and good manners, continue to wear face masks during worship until the percentage recommended by our Director is reached.

This is no longer mandatory, but a rather kind and caring gesture towards our brothers and sisters in Christ who may fall seriously ill if not yet fully vaccinated and those who may still get very ill by catching the ‘Delta’ variant which is dominant locally at the current time.

Continuing worship after ‘unlock’.

Although social distancing and mask wearing will end on 19th July continued caution is necessary.

The number of chairs will be increased to five per row over eight rows per side. An area that remains socially distanced will be maintained for those who would feel more comfortable with this arrangement.

Singing will be reintroduced into worship although it is recommended that masks should still be worn and the number of hymns reduced from four to two for the time being.

It is recommended that sharing the Peace remains by gesture rather than contact.

The national church will issue guidance on the administration of the sacraments and these will be taken into account when deciding the best practise for our circumstances given local infection rates.