The Re-Opening of our two Parish Churches for Private Prayer.
The Government announced last Saturday evening, completely out of the blue and just as all the parish newsletters had gone out across the country, that places of worship could re-open for private prayer from Monday 15th June. What fantastic news! But we had been told to plan for the 4th July, so we were all caught off guard by this sudden announcement.
For our two parishes here with limited resources and volunteers this is going to be a slow and gradual process and not an easy one to achieve. The logistics and legal requirements for the reopening of churches is highly complex, with 15-page risk assessments that need to be in place and essential PPE supplies which need to be ordered at great expense and are still in short supply.
As I wrote last week, I have set up working parties for our two parishes to implement what needs to be put in place before we can reopen for private prayer safely. Dave Harper and Anne Davies are co-ordinating the working party for Annunciation Church and Irene Chapman is co-ordinating the working party for St Patrick’s. I am very grateful to them for organising all of this and they have been working flat out behind the scenes with other volunteers this week trying to get things sorted, which has meant both churches being rearranged and many chairs being moved and configured to allow for social distancing to take place between worshippers and one way systems in place.
The Diocese has given us a detailed check list of what needs to be considered and the items we have to purchase such as hand sanitisers, gloves, masks and other PPE, tape, one-way systems, signage etc.
I know many of you are wanting to get back into our churches, but we must be careful that we only open up when we can safely do so following strict legal guidelines. We must do our best to eliminate any possibility of the virus being transmitted because of a visit to the church! Our plan currently is to open both of our churches if we get enough volunteers to help and we desperately need volunteers who are not in the vulnerable category. Our two parish churches cannot open unless we get more volunteers stepping up to the plate to help with stewarding and cleaning. So please have a serious think and pray about this and if you are able to, please volunteer.
Neither of our parish churches will be able to re-open on the 15th of June for private prayer given the short notice from the Government and the complex legal requirements. Having all our parish staff on furlough has not helped with this.
PROPOSED OPENING TIMES so far…
The Annunciation Church, Netley, are currently planning to be open on Sunday 21st June from 1430 – 1600 as a trial with a capacity for 20 people at any one time with safe social distancing in place. Family groups from the same household can of course pray sitting or kneeling together. This is dependent on us being able to source the correct PPE in time and having completed a 15-page Risk Assessment (which was only sent out to us yesterday) and this will be confirmed in next week’s newsletter.
People should bring their own face covering if they wish. Hand sanitising stations will be placed in the entrance and exit points.
Di Olsen would still like volunteers to help with cleaning the church in Netley, so please let her know directly or me know in the parish office and I will forward your details onto her.
St Patrick’s Church, Woolston, is going to take a few more weeks of organisation as it’s a bigger building with a lot of chairs and a deep clean has to take place before the building can be opened. Sadly, at the moment we simply don’t have enough volunteers stepping forward to help at St Patrick’s, despite my appeal in last week’s newsletter. Thank you to those who have volunteered so far, but we do need more. For St Patrick’s Church to re-open for private prayer we need volunteers who are not in the vulnerable category to step forward and be welcoming stewards and to be present during opening times and to assist with cleaning. Such people have to be present to make sure that good practice is exercised: 2 metre distancing; sitting only at designated places; only one person at a time near a statue/candle stand, keeping people to a one-way system, sanitising on entry and exit. You can see why we need an army of volunteers.
A 15-page risk assessment will need to be completed for St Patrick’s Church and currently all our parish staff are on furlough who could assist with this being done. The parish priest is simply not able to do all of this by himself.
So please, I appeal to you, if you want both our parish churches to be open for private prayer and in the future for public Masses and liturgies, please volunteer, even if it’s only for an hour each week at either parish church or indeed at both. Volunteers will be ‘briefed’ as to what to do and provided with the necessary PPE when we have sourced it. Please email the parish office at: