By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published July 9, 2020 | En Español
ATLANTA—The dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation will continue through Sunday, Aug. 2 in the Archdiocese of Atlanta due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., extended the dispensation on Friday, June 19.
In a memo to clergy, the archbishop said he “firmly prays and hopes that this period of restricted activity will be used as an occasion for all in the Archdiocese of Atlanta to nurture their relationship to Jesus Christ through personal prayer, devotions, spiritual reading and attendance at Holy Mass and adoration for those who can attend safely.”
Those who are ill or concerned due to underlying health conditions are encouraged to attend Mass virtually via livestreamed options.
Many parishes have resumed in-person worship using reservation systems or are limiting seating in pews by marking off rows to allow for social distancing. Other church communities are having outdoor liturgies.
St. Brendan the Navigator Church, Cumming, is one parish having outdoor Masses. The celebration of outdoor liturgies there began on May 25 as the archbishop permitted pastors to resume public worship with distancing and hygiene precautions.
Father Matthew VanSmoorenburg, LC, pastor of St. Brendan and dean of the North Metro Deanery, encouraged other pastors to do what was right for their individual parishes, based on physical building structures while adhering to the solemnity of Mass.
“I am grateful to the Archbishop for his granting us the gift of the Mass; it is a reflection of Christ through the apostolic succession that we are so blessed,” said Father VanSmoorenburg. “The Eucharist in the end is a miracle we get through the bishops.”
Attendance at St. Brendan’s first in-person Mass, held on Memorial Day, numbered approximately 250 people. It was the first time many parishioners had seen the church’s new outdoor plaza, which had been recently completed. Attendees wore masks.
“We recognize that some parishioners may not be comfortable returning to in-person worship yet, so we are continuing to livestream our 8:30 a.m. Masses, our 7 p.m. Hispanic Masses and our 9 a.m. Sunday Mass,” said Joanne Garrett, the parish’s director of communications.
“The livestreams have been extremely popular throughout this shutdown, averaging several hundred views per day and often more than 1,000 views on Sundays,” she said.
The weather for the outdoor Masses has been mostly cooperative with only a few services affected by storms as of late June. A pop-up thunderstorm did force priests and penitents indoors as a tent they were using blew away.
The parish has also been assisting families with livestreaming services for funerals on their personal Facebook pages so that relatives unable to travel may view them.
“Our families have been so appreciative of this extra effort on our part,” said Garrett.