The return to public Masses has been anxiously awaited, but we must still proceed with caution and consideration of both the social distancing guidelines in place and of our brothers and sisters with whom we share these celebrations. We know things won’t — or don’t — look exactly like they did a few months ago, but this also offers the opportunity to be creative in how we prepare a safe space to worship with our brothers and sisters.
The Missionary Strategic Planning Team of Missionaries has been in contact with almost all parishes around the Archdiocese, and has gathered a list of creative ways to navigate reopening public Mass while still maintaining social distancing.
Here are a few ideas for how your parish can handle some of the trickier aspects of social distancing in church — based on what parishes around the AOD are doing:
Have name tags at the door equal to the capacity for that Mass. Each person gets a name tag, writes their name, and enters the Church. When the name tags are gone, the Church is at capacity. Not only does this control capacity, it gives people a chance to learn their fellow parishioners’ names if they don’t already! Ensure that people using a pen or marker to fill out a name tag are wearing gloves to minimize the virus’s spread.
Use color to identify specific pathways. Green can signify an entrance and red an exit to create one continuous path in and out of the church. Tape on pews to indicate where one may sit, as well as floor marks where an individual should stand to receive Communion, could be marked in blue. Be sure to clearly communicate what each color represents.
If you’re holding Mass in a space other than your parish church, offer post-it notes so parishioners may indicate which seats or chairs they used. When Mass is being held in the church, instruct parishioners to leave their kneeler down. This way parishioners can more easily gauge whether they are safely distanced six feet away from one another, and when your team cleans after Mass, they know which spaces need to be disinfected.
Try an online signup or a color-coded ticketing system for weekend Mass. Since daily Mass tends to have a lower attendance, this may not be necessary during the week, but establish how many individuals you can accommodate while still adhering to capacity rules, and encourage people to pre-register for Mass. Use a digital sign-up sheet or associate each of your scheduled Mass times with a different color ticket. For example, your Saturday afternoon Mass may have a yellow ticket, while your 10:00 a.m. Sunday may use blue. Confirm that individuals attend the Mass for which they’d previously indicated.
Weather permitting, consider holding an outdoor service or encouraging overflow or parishioners who do not yet feel safe entering the building to participate in the Mass from the church parking lot. You may consider sending an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion out to the lawn or parking lot
Spiritually prepare for returning to Mass. Consider introducing an online novena for your parish community to pray for safety, a special intention for the parish, and the prayer for the end of coronavirus . Find a significant day to complete your novena, like Corpus Cristi, the Nativity of John the Baptist, or an upcoming date that may hold significance to your parish.
To join the discussion and learn more ways parish leaders are adhering to Mass guidelines, visit the Encounter Grow Witness online community .