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Worship in the Time of a Pandemic

With this article, I am initiating our parish’s response to Governor Parson’s publication of new orders concerning social interaction in business and in other public places, and the special instructions from Bishop McKnight on the continued implementation of his decrees on pastoral activity during this time of pandemic. Looking at the trends in cases of COVID-19 in Miller and Camden counties and reviewing the public regulations issued by county authorities, we can discern the steps that must be put in place for the faithful’s participation in worship services throughout the week and at the Sunday and Saturday vigil masses.

I urge all our parishioners and any visitors to our church to consider our re-engagement in public services in terms of the script of a play. A dramatic script guides the characters in the action for when, where, and how they should move about. There is a difference though. We are not in the world of make-believe and our actions will have real-world consequences in regard to our community’s health and well-being.

On Tuesday, May 5th, 2020, religious services at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church will be open to limited public attendance. Folks who are not symptomatic or in elevated risks categories may enter church and participate. Understanding the protocols outlined in the governor’s and the Bishop’s instructions in regard to social distancing and hygiene precautions requires us to do things a little differently. All those who are entering the church will be required to wear a mask, following the recommendations of the CDC and the stated instruction of the Bishop. Guidance will be given as to what doors will be used for entering and exiting, using only the doors that open directly into the vestibule or the church and not allowing access through the office entrance or Fellowship Hall doors. Pews and aisles will be clearly marked to assist with social distancing.

Clear instructions will be provided for the reception of communion. We will begin by allowing participation in daily mass on Tuesday morning and attendance at Adoration and Benediction on Wednesday afternoon, followed by mass. Throughout next week we will continue to monitor how the scriptis working and make adjustments as needed, with daily mass at 8:00 am on Thursday and Friday also open to the faithful. The goal is to allow the faithful to attend a 5:00 PM mass on Saturday evening the 9th and a 10:00 AM mass on Sunday morning and a 2:00 PM mass in Spanish on Sunday on the 10th. These hours will allow us to do the necessary cleaning after services.

There will be several scripts available for people to follow to guide them in the decision to participate in our worship while minimizing the risk of contagion in our community. If we follow current guidelines, then we can allow no more than 150 people in the church at one time. If people are not able to follow these scripts, then it will be clear that now isn’t the right time for them to joinin public worship. Kee p in mind that a change in state and local ordinances and an increase in diagnosed active COVID-19 cases in Miller and Camden counties may warrant the revaluation of the suitability of public worship at anytime. Please take the time to study the scripts for daily mass and Sunday mass.

I will begin reaching out to families who have been waiting to have their children baptized to schedule baptisms outside of mass. I will be working with Vicki and the respective teachers and the families to examine the scheduling of First Communions and Confirmation. In the meanwhile, the office and other areas of the facilities will remain closed to visitors. As much as possible the regular business of the parish will be conducted through teleconference.