The Bishops’ Conference of Scotland has released the new infection control measures which will inform its reopening of churches.
The guidance, developed by the Working Group on COVID-19 Infection Control headed by Sir Harry Burns, was sent to the country’s six hundred clergy to help them prepare to safely reopen their churches in the coming weeks.
The guidelines recommend that parishioners use hand sanitiser and face-coverings when visiting churches and that parishes introduce a booking system if they expect more than one congregant per every two square metres of church space.
The measures also recommend that Holy Communion is received in the hand, that liturgical singing is omitted, that there are no altar servers at Mass, that sermons are “brief”, and that vulnerable people from a “shielding group” do not attend church.
The recommendations are designed to “accord with the Scottish Government’s Route Map.” The Government’s Route Map does not give dates for the lifting of church restrictions, but phase two of the plan, thought to be introduced sometime this month, will permit churches to “open for private prayer”, whilst phase three, thought to begin in July, will allow churches to “open to extended groups”.
The bishops’ guidance notes that a church’s ability to reopen “will depend on the availability of trained volunteers”. These volunteers will be needed to assist with the cleaning of surfaces and to ensure parishioners are following the necessary guidelines.
In an accompanying pastoral letter, the bishops state that while churches have been closed out of a “fundamental obligation to protect our own and others’ health,” the reduction in the infection rate means that “we can begin to move firmly and sensibly towards the reopening of churches and the resumption of public worship.”
They add: “We look forward eagerly to the day when it will be possible to gather again, without fear, around the altar and celebrate the Holy Eucharist together.”