Reopening of St Mary’s for Private Prayer

Dear Parishioners,

Measures to be Adopted by the Parish on the Reopening of St Mary’s

It is hoped to open the church for private prayer and reflection on Sunday 28 June 2020. Doors will be open from 14:00 hr to 15:00 hrs. This is following the recent easing of the lockdown restrictions announced by the UK and Scottish governments. Public Mass will not yet be celebrated.

Much of the plan to reopen places of worship and to reduce the risk of passing the virus from one person to another relies greatly on all of us playing our part in observing the risk reduction measures being put in place.

Firstly, it should be noted that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended. Accordingly, online mass from St Margaret’s will continue to be available on our Parish St Mary’s Fochabers’ Facebook page and on St Margaret’s R.C. Church Huntly YouTube.

Those with underlying health conditions, should not come to Church. Additionally, anyone exhibiting any of the symptoms associated with COVID-19 must also absent themselves. Meanwhile, work is complete to calculate the reduced capacity of the church taking into account social distancing rules. We can therefore admit a maximum of 26 people. Relatedly, we are advised to put in place a booking system for those wishing to come to church. Accordingly, if you wish to make a booking, please contact us via the parish phone number. It is not envisaged that capacity will be an issue and as long as capacity exists, parishioners will not be turned away even though they have not booked. In the unlikely event that capacity is reached, those who have not made a booking may be turned away.

Additionally, the church building will be subject to an enhanced cleaning regime before each service. All those who enter the church are required to wear face covering or mask. This is not a requirement of those under 2 years old.

Once at the church, please follow the directions of the volunteer guides. As there is only one main entrance and two small doors for entry and exit, it is important that the inflow and outflow of parishioners is managed to ensure as much distance between individual or groups as possible. Hand sanitiser will be available. Above all, continue to respect social distancing protocols. Inside the church, you will notice that a number of pews will have been taped off. This is for the purpose of social distancing. These pews must not be used and you are asked to respect the barriers that have been put in place. Of the remaining pews, one will be allocated to each individual, couple or family. Doors into and within the church will be left open. Please resist the temptation to touch door handles and plates.

Please try not to use the toilet though it will be available if needed. Hand sanitiser is available as are anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning surfaces after use.

Entry to the sacristy is restricted to the priests only.

Hymn books have been put out of sight as they are not to be touched or used.

Money collections involving the passing of the basket amongst parishioners will not take place, but a basket will be left at the exit where you may make your offerings to the church. It will come as no surprise that the income to the parish has fallen away sharply during the past few months so please consider this when making your offerings.

Further details regarding conduct during Mass are being developed and will be communicated prior to moving to that phase.

Finally, we are in need of more volunteers to help during this time. If anyone wishes to volunteer to join the church cleaning team or act as a guide, please let me or Kay know.

We’ll have notices outside, inside, guidance to benches and distancing. At all times by trying to stick to rules and procedures we should ensure that everyone is protected.

The somewhat blunt tone of this message is regretted but it is important that we all understand what is expected of ourselves and each other. The greater the level of adherence to the measures described above, coupled with the wider society’s compliance with general guidelines, then the quicker normality will be restored. For us, that normality is the ability to attend Mass, worship collectively, partake in the Eucharist and share fellowship.

Any comments or suggestions are most welcome.

Thank you for your understanding and support, and I wish you all the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we prepare to visit His house and see Him face to face. God bless you.

Fr Kingsley Chigbo