My Dear Friends,
Recently, I have given significant thought and prayer in the hope of celebrating the great feast of Christmas this year. So last week’s announcement of the new regulations by Prime Minister Boris Johnson was great news and is indeed a blessing and joy.
The Christmas message of joy, hope and peace is needed more than ever in a year that has brought dark days for so many people. Details of Masses and services are listed above and this information will be circulated throughout the parish by Email, What’s App, Bulletin, Phone calls, and in person those who are difficult to reach so that everyone is aware of this year’s Christmas period itinerary. Please remember that attending Mass during this pandemic is not compulsory – there is no obligation to be present.
After saying that, our community at St. Joseph’s has done a great deal to make our church a safe place in which some have been able to gather in supervised and coordinated ways. Teams of volunteers have worked stoically to organise, clean and manage the safety of those who have visited St. Joseph’s since reopening. It is this dedication that has protected those who have visited church and enabled those who felt safe to reenergise their relationship with God in church.
So, to counter this virus, we will all still need to make sustained sacrifices for time to come. By not doing so risks eroding the unity we need as we continue to edge towards a full recovery. Therefore, as we approach Christmas, I would like to reinforce the following important points which as a parish we have already agreed, and form part of the legal guidance provided by our Diocese and Government.
· The maximum number of attendees at St. Joseph’s Masses and Services will be 56. This is the number that has been calculated as part of the Risk Assessment and to safely provide protection to the congregation using the 2-metre distancing measure.
· If for any unforeseen reason the maximum capacity is reached, no one else will be accommodated in church as this would compromise the safety of all those present.
This year’s Christmas Eve Mass is not a Children’s Mass.
To ensure no one is turned away from church a strict booking system will be in place to confirm the maximum capacity is not exceeded.
· If you do book a place, please arrive early to take your place in church so we can avoid any last-minute queues. I encourage elderly parishioners to attend Mass on Christmas morning when it is light and more likely safer.
· Young children, the sick and those who are vulnerable are strongly encouraged not to attend.
· The Service of Reconciliation which is due to take place on the 16th December at 7.00pm is going to be in the form of General Absolution. That means people will not be required to queue up for individual confession and absolution as we usually do. We simply stay in our places and everyone present will be absolved and have their sins forgiven. I do need to add, that if the service is oversubscribed, I may be able to offer an additional service at some point the following week depending on booking requests.
How to make a booking
You MUST book a place for all Masses and especially for the Penitential Service and Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Masses by calling or texting Monica Carroll on 07813920844. She will confirm availability and could suggest an alternative Mass if your first choice is not available.
In allowing churches to open for the rest of Advent and for the celebration of Christmas will help bring some comfort and joy to people’s lives, but this will still be a hugely difficult Christmas for many people. For those families who are grieving, for those who are sick, for people worried about their jobs or businesses, and those who face the prospect of being alone this Christmas, I ask for your continued prayers.