Arrangements For Re-Opening St. Edward’s Church – For Private Prayer Only

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
Update 10th June, 2020

As you may know, we had been preparing for an opening on July 4th for private prayer, by which time the Covid health and safety measures we need may have been delivered and installed.  Then the date was eased to June 15th. if feasible.  
However, not all churches are able to re-open due to national shortages of these measures and unfortunately we now have a period of maintenance & repair work being carried out in church (previously delayed by lockdown). Under current regulations, and for everyone’s safety, we cannot permit a mixing of workmen and visitors.  It will also be dusty with equipment lying around.  This will sadly delay our opening for prayer. 
I am so sorry about this as, like me, I know parishioners were looking forward to the opportunity of praying before the tabernacle in church.  I will keep you updated here as safety measures arrive, work becomes completed and we progress to an eventual re-opening. 
A reminder that in addition to Mass there is adoration, rosary and priest-led prayer available daily from a selection of churches across the British Isles which can be live streamed on https://www.churchservices.tv/timetable/   at various times of day.
STEWARDS STILL REQUIRED! We will not be able to open without a team of stewards, therefore if you are interested, healthy and not in a vulnerable group, please email your name to the parish office.  The vulnerable group includes those eligible by age or illness to be able to access free annual flu vaccinations, the elderly, those with underlying conditions and shielded.  Please read the information posted below before applying to the parish office by email at parish@stedwardskettering.org.uk

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We have now received detailed instructions from the Diocese on how we must prepare for the eventual re-opening of our church for private prayer only.  The instructions originate from the Ministry of Communities & Local Government working with the Bishop’s Conference.  We have also sought advice from front-line medical staff in our parish.  There will be a risk assessment by Diocese appointed Health & Safety Consultants, then our implementation of the rules will come under the authority of (and auditing by) Kettering Borough Council.  The danger of any virus spread or resurgence is being taken very seriously and our Bishop has to be satisfied that all procedures have been implemented (and that they will be followed by all entering the building) before he can give us permission to re-open our church.

As the layout of churches across the diocese varies greatly, each parish has to submit their plans for re-opening to Bishop’s House for consideration that it is safe to do so.  If a church cannot meet the criteria for social distancing, sanitation, routing of visitors to avoid contact, etc. then it cannot open.  Similarly, if it opens but then fails to comply, permission could be rescinded.  Therefore, we respectfully ask that all visitors for prayer adhere strictly to the rules for the benefit of everyone’s health and to keep our church open.  To qualify, our church must:

  • Have an area for private prayer with two points of access so that an ‘in’ and ‘out’ system can be established. Parishioners will be asked to enter via the side porch door and take a seat only where signs permit.  Exit will be via the side door (by the Sacristy) and out onto The Grove.  The balcony will be closed because there can be no separate ‘in’ and ‘out’ provision with only one staircase present.  Under the rules of distancing, the balcony would only provide for six additional persons anyway.
  • Have seats marked out with social distancing of 2m (6 Ft.) in all directions. This will be achieved by placing notices on seats indicating where we can and cannot sit.
  • Have antibacterial gel dispensers at both entrance and exit and stewards to remind people to use them. Visitors will be asked to avoid unnecessary touching of statues, pews, handles, etc. and are strongly advised to wear masks and gloves. Masks can help stop one route of infection via droplets expelled in our breath.
  • Display notices reminding people of social distancing. Use of votive candles will not be possible as this could encourage unsafe distancing in confined areas and cause an extra zone to be sanitised.  The confessional rooms will be closed to both minimise cleaning and because their very small unventilated areas could harbour infected airborne droplets from the immediately previous penitent.  The Lady Chapel will not be accessible internally as it is too confined a space to enable good 2 metre distancing.
  • Keep Holy Water stoups emptied and covered over.
  • Clean down seats and all touched areas after each use (see arrangements below).
  • Remove all hymn books, prayer books, cards or any other paper materials as the virus is able to survive on such surfaces for a while.

The Diocese advises that only the main parish church will be considered for re-opening.  In creating a safe environment for prayer which works under the above rules, we will need a sufficient number of volunteers to act as stewards. Priests will not be able to manage the re-opening of churches on their own!

Stewarding

The Steward’s role will be:

  • To responsibly control access within the church’s measured safe capacity limit,
  • To maintain social distancing between parishioners at all times and remind if needed,
  • To wipe down seats and all touched areas with antiseptic after each use, including the outside toilet if used (the diocese recommends that the toilet is not made available unless absolutely necessary, to minimise cleaning).
  • To keep a record of those attending, to assist contact tracers should a visitor later develop symptoms.

These stewards will need to be healthy individuals and, regardless of age, not part of the group of people who are being ‘shielded’ or people with underlying medical conditions.  They should also definitely be under 70 years old, although the World Health Organisation emphasises that even a healthy person’s vulnerability to the disease increases more rapidly beyond the age of 60, thus requiring additional preventative measures.  Please therefore consider very carefully your own circumstances before volunteering.  We would rather you keep safe and well than be a volunteer!

Advice is to start off with a small number of access ‘slots’ to assess demand and increase as necessary.  Further information and training for stewards will be provided in due course.  In the meantime, any interested healthy volunteers in the appropriate age group are asked to contact the Presbytery and leave their contact details.  Stewards will be provided with masks and gloves which are required to be worn.

This information concerns only the opening of churches for private prayer which is not likely to happen until at the earliest July 4th, always providing the number of Covid cases has further decreased.  This information cannot be followed for other activities that may take place on parish premises, such as groups that would meet in church halls.  In fact at present the hall must remain closed by law.

These measures may seem burdensome, or even a little daunting, but this virus is different to many others in that people can be infectious without being aware or displaying symptoms at the time.  Also the measures are necessary because if any churches are seen to be operating in a way that may increase the spread of the virus, there is a risk that stricter measures such as prohibition or enforced closure notices could be served by local authorities or government.  This is a very frustrating time for us all but we are trying our best within the confines of the rules to find ways of allowing safe access for limited numbers who wish to pray in church.  Please bear with us and thank you in anticipation of your understanding and help.  I will continue to post updates here and try to alert some of those in the parish who might not access our website but it would help if readers of this could also spread the information.

Thank you, God Bless and stay safe.