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Winter Entrance Protocol Begins November 29

This past week our annual backflow valve inspection took place. These valves are required for facilities connected to a central water supply. This ensures that a low pressure event on the supply side of the system does not draw contaminated water from a local user into the wider system. The physics of water flow is very predictable for a closed system. The physics of human foot traffic and interactions are less predictable. Although subject to the laws of physics, the movement of crowds always tests the limits of predictability.

During this time of the pandemic, many of the procedures we have put in place, like mask use and social distancing, are attempting to do what a backflow valve does easily for water. We are trying to prevent the spread of a disease. We can’t know every person we encounter, and we might not be aware of our own illness but could still be a vector for transmission. Simple health and hygiene controls help contain the disease. We are trying to make the situation predictable enough to continue to offer the sacraments while minimizing risks.

Closing off the office entrance created a hardship for many folks. It can be difficult to enter church since the entrances are so high above the parking places. Our church has eleven sets of doors for entering and exiting. That creates a challenge for managing traffic flow. We have a limited number of ushers available to assist before mass. So we arranged entrances and exits to better manage traffic flow and assist people in cooperating with health and hygiene practices.

Typically we close off the north entrance and transept for the First Sunday of Advent. That has allowed us to shift to fewer extraordinary ministers. We will not close the dividers to the north transept this year and will continue to seat people to maximize social distancing.

Winter weather may make it difficult for people to access the north transept by the stairs. Sometimes even the south stairs may get cordoned off if it is particularly icy and snowy. To manage the entrances in winter better, we will close of the stairs and prevent entrance to church through the north transept. We will re-open the office entrance and allow for parking in the back parking lot. Closing off the north stairs and entrance will allow us to have enough ushers to assist folks entering through the office entrance. This will go into effect Saturday, November 28.

We will require one usher at every mass outside the office entrance welcoming people and reminding them of the mask protocol and seating arrangements. Both doors will be propped open. People will proceed up the ramp through the Fellowship Hall and go directly into the church where another usher will direct them to open seating in the north wing and gospel side (north pews) of the central section. The office entrance doors will remain propped open until the Liturgy of the Word begins.

Ministers for Mass will be in the Fellowship Hall. We will cordon off a path into the church to maximize distancing so that folks continue into church and not obstruct the preparation for Mass. Ministers will use the entrance by the organ and everyone else will use the entrance by the tabernacle. We want to do our best to keep foot traffic going one way before mass to avoid congestion at this pinch point.

Exiting will require continued management of traffic flow since the entrance to the Fellowship Hall is so narrow. We request all to remain in their pews until the final song is finished and the ushers dismiss you. Do not leave during communion, nor after the blessing and dismissal.

For daily Mass, the front doors of church will be open for entrance, but so also will the office entrance. This will require one more usher to welcome people before mass. I appreciate the dedication of those who have been assisting with daily mass for the eight months. Ushers, readers, sacristans, readers, extra-ordinary ministers, stream directors, and pew cleaners have been an amazing examples of generous service. As always, we welcome more people to assist in daily mass and Sunday Mass.

I understand that this pandemic has been one of the greatest challenges many of us have faced in our lives. All that we hold as valuable is being put to the test. As more and more people whom we know and love fall ill, the burden only increases. I am grateful that we have been able to celebrate the sacraments during this time, knowing that other parishes have had to suspend services due to quarantine requirements. Continued vigilance, monitoring symptoms, social distancing, avoiding likely spots of contagion, and mask use will minimize the risk that a church activity become a super-spreader event. This Advent will be different in many ways; however, the pandemic has provided a path to simplicity and quiet that is rare in these days. Prayer, sacrifice, charity—these are the weapons of conversion and they will always be a light in any darkness.