following jesus in the foothills

Returning to Church

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The past several months have been a difficult and trying time for many of us as we’ve tried to navigate the confusing waters of the COVID-19 pandemic. Never would I have imagined that we’d be forced to close our Church to the public celebration of the Mass. I’m grateful for the opportunities we’ve been given as a parish to use technology to remain connected and engaged. I’m also extraordinarily grateful to all the people, staff, and volunteers, who have assisted me in keeping the parish moving forward in this unprecedented time. I’m also humbled and moved by the show of support, the cards, the words of encouragement, and the continued financial commitment parishioners have maintained despite the challenges we’ve all faced together.

Although we all share a great desire to return to “normal,” it is clear that the reopening of our churches will be a situation very different from when we closed the churches to the public celebration of the Mass more than two months ago. It is apparent that we are beginning a gradual process that will hopefully, over time, give us more and more unfettered access to our churches. Our primary goal as a parish will remain the safety of parishioners and all who join us in worship during this pandemic.

With this letter, I hope to outline some general points about what it will mean for us to return to the public celebration of the Mass, and to describe some of the changes you may encounter when you return. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the Parish Office for clarification. Although the office remains closed to the public, staff are working during regular business hours Monday through Thursday from 9 am to 1 pm. Staff is regularly checking email and voicemail. You can contact the Office at (207) 364-4556 or by email at [email protected] .

In general, our ability to return to the public celebration of the Mass is predicated on the downward trajectory of COVID-19 infections. The phased approach to reopening the economy, businesses, and churches proposed by the Federal Government, the State of Maine, and the Bishop of Portland are dependent on up-to-date data, the advice of experts, and the readiness of our community. The plan aims to mitigate the risk of a resurgence of the virus while protecting the most vulnerable. Accordingly, the plan is subject to change as necessary.

The foundation of the plan is 1) good personal hygiene (i.e. washing of hands) 2) maintaining social distance, especially in groups 3) wearing a face mask when social distancing is difficult 4) cleaning of facilities according to CDC guidelines and 5) gathering information to assist with contact tracing in the event of infection.

For the past several weeks, a team of staff and volunteers have been working to prepare for parishioners to return to Mass. We have prepared a short video that is available on the parish web site, Facebook, and YouTube which details the new procedures for coming to Mass.

As of the beginning of June, what you need to know:

  1. For the time being, until further notice, parishioners are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
  2. We will NOT be immediately going back to the old Mass schedule. Instead, we will be gradually phasing in Masses as we are able. For up to date Mass availability and times, see the parish web site (parishoftheholysavior.com), call the parish office, or check the parish bulletin.
  3. At this time, in order to accommodate funerals, daily Masses will NOT be open to the public. (Are we planning on continuing to live stream daily Mass if there isn’t a funeral)
  4. Masses will continue to be live-streamed and available on the parish web site (parishoftheholysavior.com), Facebook, and youTube.
  5. People who are vulnerable are asked NOT to come to Mass. – see the CDC guidelines at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html

People who are exhibiting flu-like symptoms are asked NOT to come to Mass until they have been symptom-free for 3 days.

  1. People who have been in contact with someone who has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis should NOT come to Mass for 14 days after the time of contact.
  2. At Mass, people are asked to do their best to keep a social distance of 6ft or more.
  3. Face covering must be worn at all times while on church property, except immediately prior to receiving Holy Communion.

In order to maintain social distancing and ensure the safety of people who attend the public celebration of the Mass, you may notice some of the following changes:

  1. Attendance is limited to less than 50 people.
  2. Parishioners who wish to attend Mass must sign-up through the Parish Office
  3. Before arriving at the church, wash your hands at home, then before you get out of your car, put your mask on and use hand sanitizer.
  4. When you arrive at the church, you will be greeted by a Porter at the Franklin Street door. No other entrances will be open. You must enter and exit from this location.
  5. Porters will assist with helping people to enter the church, take their seats, during the distribution of Holy Communion, and to exit the building at the end of Mass.
  6. During the Mass, parishioners are to maintain a distance of 6ft from other individuals or 6ft between households. Porters will assist seating people so as to accommodate appropriate distancing.
  7. Parishioners are to wear face masks at all times, except immediately before receiving communion. If you are unable to wear a face mask, you should consider instead participating at the St. John’s Cemetery Mass where you can stay in your car, or via live stream.
  8. For the distribution of Holy Communion, parishioners will proceed in one single file line down the center aisle of the church, removing their face mask at the center station before applying hand sanitizer, and proceeding to the Minister of Holy Communion while maintaining proper distancing. There will be markers on the floor to help guide you. Porters will assist with the flow of communion.
  9. Parishioners are asked to receive Holy Communion in the hand, out of charity for others.
  10. If you are worried about receiving Holy Communion, you may ask for a blessing, and make a spiritual act of communion.
  11. At the end of Mass, please remain in your seats until dismissed by the Porters.
  12. The upstairs bathroom is available in the event of an emergency only and will be cleaned after each Mass.
  13. Following the Mass, a team of volunteers will clean the pews and commonly touched surfaces according to CDC guidelines.
  14. There will be no offertory collection taken during the Mass instead, a basket will be available on the way out of the church for people to drop in their contribution or envelopes. As always, donations can be made online at parishoftheholysavior.com, or mailed/dropped off at the Parish Office at 7 Brown St. Mexico, ME 04257.

As you can see, returning to the public celebration of the Mass will require a significant number of changes. These are necessary. Thank you for your patience. If you are uncomfortable with any of them, you do not need to return to Mass at this time and have other options such as live-streaming and the cemetery Mass. If you have any questions or would like clarification, please feel free to contact the Parish Office.

Hopefully, you can see that our ability to return to Mass depends on a team of committed volunteers. I’m grateful to staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks to develop these plans and procedures and who have committed themselves to help all of us return. If you are interested in helping, please contact Sue Adley at the Parish Office.

I know it is a lot of work and will feel very different at first, but after several weeks of celebrating Mass by myself in an empty church, I’m excited to see your faces again! I’ve missed you all! This is the next step in a gradual process. Hopefully, soon, we’ll return to some semblance of “normal” and we will look back at this experience with a degree of gratitude for the manner in which it helped us to better appreciate our faith, brought us closer together and helped us to be a more faithful and effective witness of the Gospel.

Peace,

Fr. Nathan

 

Check out the Return to Mass video!