The regular celebration of Mass has resumed at St Philip’s, but the format of each Mass is different to what we have been used to. In particular, Sunday Mass is shorter than previously, so that we can minimise the time we spend inside the building together. The following guidelines give an indication of the features you can expect for the time being.
- Due to social-distancing requirements, there is a maximum capacity of 50 people for each Mass. (That number can be increased when the members of a household group or “support bubble” sit together.) We will not be able to admit anyone else into the church when the safe limit is reached.
- Anyone who is showing any of the symptoms of Covid-19, as well as every other member of their household, should not come to the church.
- The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation remains suspended. If you wish, you can attend Mass on a weekday instead, when there are normally fewer people present.
- Booking has now become essential for the Sunday Masses, to help us maintain attendance records required by Government legislation, as well as keep numbers within safe limits. Booking is also recommended for the other Masses during the week. Click on the link for the Mass you wish to attend on the Events page. You can find more help with booking on the How to book page. In the event that someone who comes to the same Mass subsequently tests positive for Covid-19, your details may be used to provide you with information from the NHS Test and Trace service. The details you provide will be deleted automatically 21 days after the date of the Mass for which you register. You are given the option, when you book, of not allowing your details to be shared with the Test and Trace service.
- Those who download the NHS COVID-19 app can use it to “check in” when they come to the church by scanning the QR code displayed to the left of the inner doors in the church porch. Using the app doesn’t replace the need to book a place for Mass.
- Face coverings are now mandatory while you are in the church (apart from those who are exempt). They must cover your nose and mouth. Ministers of the Word should remove their face coverings when they arrive at the lectern to begin their reading, but should replace them before leaving the lectern at the end of the reading. They should then sanitise their hands before returning to their seat.
- Entry to the church is via the main doors only, which are normally opened half an hour before each Mass. Please maintain social distancing as you enter and move, as quickly as possible, to one of the available places in the church, indicated with a green marker. Chevrons are provided in the main aisle to help maintain a 2-metre distance. When the church reaches its safe capacity, no further admission will be possible for that Mass. Avoid unnecessary movement inside the church to minimise contact with people outside your household group.
- Hand-sanitising units are available and should be used on entry and exit. They are pedal-operated – hold your hand under the white dispenser and then press the pedal with your foot.
- Toilets are not available at the moment.
- There will be no singing during Mass for the time being.
- Shared books are not in use.
- Holy water is not available at present.
- Votive candles may be lit on the candle stands around the church, but please use the hand sanitiser provided after lighting a candle. The church has to be closed for cleaning as soon as possible after Mass, so it is preferable to light candles before Mass begins.
- Copies of the newsletter are available at the back of the church. They include the words of the Gloria and Creed, and the Sunday responses for the Liturgy of the Word. Once used, those copies should not be left in the church. They should be taken home, together with any personal items you bring to the church with you. Recent issues of the weekly newsletter can also be read online via the News page. You can use the e-Alerts service to have the latest copy emailed to you every week.
- Sit near the end of a bench, or on one of the chairs, indicated with a green marker. Two individuals can sit on either end of the same bench in the marked seats, leaving an empty space between them. You will not be permitted to stand or sit anywhere else in the church, including the porch. Those who sit on a chair which doesn’t have a kneeler in front of it can make use of the kneeler attached to the back of their chair. It is recommended that those who come to Mass alone, or with one or two other people, sit on the chairs near the sides of the church to leave benches available for larger family groups.
- Seats that are marked with an orange ‘family group‘ marker should only be used by members of a household group who are occupying a bench or row of chairs, and at least one member of the group is in a seat with a green marker.
- A number of seats around the church have notices indicating that they should not be used. Please leave those places empty. Seating has been arranged in a way that ensures Covid-19 Safety, so please don’t move any chairs.
- Special arrangements are in place for the distribution of Holy Communion. Follow the social-distancing markings as you come forward in a single line along the main aisle, one row at a time, starting from the front of the church. Those occupying seats at the sides of the church are asked to go to the back of the church to join the line for Holy Communion, rather than walking through benches where other people have been sitting. There is a barrier at the point where Holy Communion is administered to separate the Minister from the Communicant. Stretch your hands out straight in front of you to receive Holy Communion at one of the designated positions. Unloop your face covering in order to consume the sacred host, and then replace the face covering before you return to your place via the side aisle.
- Holy Communion is received in silence. Before the distribution of Holy Communion, the priest holds up the sacred host at the altar and announces, “The Body of Christ” to which everyone responds together, “Amen.” There should be no further dialogue when you receive Holy Communion. Ministers of Communion should remove their face covering while they are receiving Holy Communion themselves, but should then replace the covering before sanitising their hands and distributing Holy Communion to others.
- There is no offertory collection for the time being, but there is a wall box in the main porch in which you can place your donations for the parish. The preferred method of giving is by direct payment to the parish bank account. You can find the details on the Donations page, where you can also make secure donations using a debit or credit card, or use Virgin Money Giving to donate via PayPal.
- Please leave the church as quickly as possible after Mass, via the nearest exit, to allow the building to be closed for cleaning. Maintain a social distance from those outside your household group or support bubble at all times. Move away from the entrance to make room for others to leave after you, and to minimise unnecessary personal contact. Avoid standing around cars in the car park.
We look forward to the time when we can regain a fuller sense of community, but the ability to share the Eucharist together once again is an important step on that journey.
As you enter the church, you will find the hand-sanitiser unit on your right, and the NHS QR code poster on your left, before you pass through the inner doors.
The current seating plan shows the layout of seats that are available in the church. The figures in orange on the plan indicate the additional spaces that can be used when the members of a single household or support bubble sit together.