Having worked so hard to make our Church Covid-19 Secure and establish a protocol for receiving Holy Communion, but the latest guidelines the Church of England nationally, means that things need to change again. This brought me to tears and to my knees.
The new guidelines “strongly advice” the wearing of masks in church. This includes the Minister. We have disposable masks available for any who want or need them. Some allowance has been made where the wearing of a mask would make it difficult for people to hear or make sense of what is being said. I shall move the lectern further back and the altar is already distanced from the congregation, so it will be possible for me to dispense with the mask when leading worship. I have also been told I need to wear the microphone closer to my mouth and my apologies for not realising this sooner.
The new guidelines on the Administration of Holy Communion, pose a very significant challenge as it includes:
Each communicant should also be encouraged to sanitise their hands before and after removing their face covering to receive the bread, and before and after putting it on again.
This would mean wearing your face mask until you stand in front of me, sanitising your hands, then removing your mask, sanitising your hands again and then receiving the bread. After that, you would have to sanitise your hands again, put your mask back on and then sanitise them yet again. Can you imagine 30 people doing exactly that, one after another? And where do you put your mask? We would have to provide some sort of table to rest it on so you could sanitise your hands properly and then someone else would have to sanitise the table before and after everyone used it to rest their mask on.
I do not think this is tenable or helpful in any way, so, I have had a think and checked it out with the Diocese that we could do it like this instead…
The invitation will be to have your masks on as you come forward and sanitise your hands at the end of the aisle furthest from the altar. This will give you chance to rub the alcohol gel into your hands before you get to the front and reach out your hands to receive. Please then keep the host in your hand as you return to your seat. When you are settled back in your pew and can have a private prayerful moment, give yourself the bread (posting it under your mask or taking it off one ear or whatever).
It is not ideal, but I think it is the best we can do. There is a very real question to be asked, why those attending church need to do quite so much to keep each other safe when compared with e.g. buying something in a shop or having a meal in a restaurant. But such things are well above my pay grade and we are where we are.
I thank you for your continued support and understanding and hold you in my prayers.
Please hold me in yours.