By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published May 18, 2020 | En Español
ATLANTA—Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., has presented a schedule and conditions for the resumption of in-parish worship and access to church buildings in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Following consultation with the archdiocese’s College of Consultors, deans of the 10 deaneries and lay professionals, Archbishop Hartmayer, announced the guidelines the morning of Monday, May 18. The advisory is a combination of requirements, suggestions and best practices that will be evaluated and amended as needed. An updated version, along with answers to “Frequently Asked Questions,” was provided Friday, May 22. The FAQ deals with topics such as summer faith formation programs, outdoor liturgies and confirmations.
While the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect through Sunday, June 28, attendance at daily Mass was permitted to begin Monday, May 25 on announced schedules. Churches may also be open for prayer and adoration on an announced schedule. Weekend Masses may begin on Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31—Pentecost.
In an accompanying video, Archbishop Hartmayer calls the guidelines a “measured, careful approach.”
“We decided to begin our process on Pentecost—the birthday of the church,” he said. “As a theme for this reopening we pray, come Holy Spirit, fill and renew us.”
In the video, he gives a broad overview of the reopening plan.
Parishes may use a reservation system or first-come, first-admitted procedure so that social distancing may be maintained according to public health guidelines. The faithful are required to use face masks (age 7 and older), as are ministers of Holy Communion. Hand sanitizer is to be used by ushers, ministers of Holy Communion, servers, lectors, volunteers and those who clean the church.
There should be no physical contact at the Our Father or the Sign of Peace. One-way aisles for Holy Communion are recommended. For the time being, the Precious Blood will not be offered at Holy Communion and communicants are strongly urged to receive in the hand.
The guidelines suggest parishes may wish to consider encouraging people to come on weekdays to help stagger the number of attendees. Parishioners are encouraged to take their temperature before leaving home and to avoid coming to church if the temperature is 99.6 or greater. As possible, parishes should continue to offer online Masses.
Before returning to regular Masses and visitation, churches are to be deep cleaned. Parish staff are encouraged to minimize entry points into a church for usher placement of parishioners, one-way direction and sanitizing. Pews should be taped off and marked to ensure six feet of distance in all directions between household groups or individuals.
As the month wound down, parish staff members worked to mark off pews with blue painter’s tape, posted directional and information signs and held rehearsals for practicing flow during Mass.
Plans are also in the works for those who were supposed to enter the church at Easter through the RCIA program, for confirmation candidates and for those waiting to receive first Holy Communion.
“I would ask you to be patient and gentle as we begin to roll out this plan,” said Archbishop Hartmayer. “This is an opportunity for us to be renewed and united in our faith. I wish you a very blessed and Spirit-filled Pentecost.”