A Covid-19 Update to our Parishioners
A letter from Father Keith, Father Tshepo and the PPC on the opening of our Parish
On Tuesday 26 May 2020, President Cyril Rhamaphosa announced that Religious Institutions may open for worship from 1 June 2020, subject to very strict restrictions and with a limit of 50 people being in attendance at any one Mass or Service. The President also specified that churches and other religious places of worship should carefully consider their decision based on the Covid-19 Hotspots, and to think carefully about opening their church if it fell into a defined Hotspot Area.
As the community of our Church of the Resurrection, we have missed meeting together to worship, to celebrate Mass, to receive the Gift of the Eucharist. We have also really missed the social and very human aspect of coming together as a community and sharing, chatting and enjoying a cup of tea or coffee after mass.
And while we acknowledge all of this, and would love to open up our Parish Doors to meet together and celebrate, we cannot discount the very real risk of our parishioners, or priests being infected with the coronavirus. Before we can reopen the Parish, there are several aspects we need to consider and have in place.
We will be opening……but just not yet
This past Tuesday, the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC), together with Father Keith and Father Tshepo, convened for a special meeting to go through all the Covid-19 regulations and requirements that must be met to ensure we are safe to open our church.
Many risks and possible solutions were discussed in depth to ensure that when we open, it is as safe as possible for everyone. Based on all the information considered, a decision was reached that we will open our church doors, but not just yet.
How we reached this decision
Adhering to the strict Covid-19 regulations that must be followed is not the only reason that we will not be opening right away.
The PPC has created the following task teams: Policies and Procedures, Communications, Worship and a Costing Task Team, to ensure that all government’s requirements are met. These task teams have started working on putting the required measures in place, some of which are already implemented.
We have to also consider the evidence and statistics available to us regarding four main things:
- The safety of our parishioners is of paramount importance. According to the statistics released by the Gauteng Provincial Government, on the 2 June 2020, the area we are based in, and the surrounding areas, make up 73% of the infected people in our municipality. As we are in a hotspot, the current safety regulations are not enough to provide that safety. Thus we are reluctant to have a public mass where people can be infected.
- We have to consider that Father Keith, although extremely healthy and eager to open the parish to celebrate mass, is in the high-risk category as he is an asthmatic. Should Father Keith contract the virus, the parish will be placed under quarantine and closed during this period.
- We have the experiences of other parishes in Europe and the USA who recently opened, and despite adhering to the social distancing and sanitising protocols, both priests and parishioners fell ill with the virus and the parishes were closed completely for a quarantine period.
- And the final, but most important factor we had to grapple with is this: We are a large parish with an average of 1400 plus parishioners attending our various weekend Masses. As a community, we need to come up with a fair and equitable way for parishioners to attend mass and still adhere to the maximum of 50 people being at the church. With 8 people permanently at the church, this leaves us with 42 parishioners who can attend at any given time. We have come up with some great ideas, but we need to work through these to see how feasible they are.
Taking this into account, the PPC reached the decision that we need to prioritise the health and protection of our priests and parishioners. At this stage, the necessary procedures are not in place for us to safely resume mass.
When will the church open again?
While it is difficult to provide an exact timeline, we can assure you that the PPC Task Teams are hard at work to get everything in place.
We are heading for the season where the virus is predicted to peak. It is important that we monitor infection trends and get ready to resume mass in our buildings as soon as it is safe to do so, once all the policies and protocols can be correctly followed.
What you can do in the meantime.
In the meantime, our Parish Priests, together with the Digital Ministry Team, have provided alternative ways for parishioners to receive spiritual nourishment. We encourage everyone to make use of these platforms:
- The Bryanston Catholic Church YouTube channel
- Sunday Church at Home on the Parish Website and App
We are very aware that we have parishioners who cannot access YouTube for Daily Mass and we are working on a way to solve this. You should receive more information regarding our WhatsApp options soon.
What about Confession and Private Prayer?
You can contact the Parish Office to make arrangements to attend Confession with Father Keith or Father Tshepo. Please note that these are strictly by appointment only.
Parishioners are allowed to come to the church for some quiet time and private prayer. The following safety protocols must be adhered to:
- Only the side chapel will be opened for private prayer time
- You need to sanitise your hands upon entering the side chapel
- You must pray in the marked areas
- Once you have finished praying, you need to sanitise the area where you have prayed. Sanitiser will be available in the chapel for this
Funerals will continue as it did before under the previous lockdown levels, subject to the health and safety regulation.
The opening of our parish is going to phase in and we will be providing ongoing communication to you during this time.
Yours in Christ,
Father Keith, Father Tshepo and the PPC