To All Parishioners of St. Mary’s, Largs, and of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour’s, Millport.
Dear Sisters, Brothers and Friends
God’s peace be with you!
I pray that you will be feeling a little more hopeful as we all begin to emerge with small steps from the lockdown. Prudence suggests, of course, that we “ca’canny” so as not to lose the progress we have made. Still, it’s nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The lives of all of us will have been affected by the lockdown in different ways and degrees. Anxiety about our own health and life, as well as those of our loved ones, will not have been far from the top of our concerns. So, it won’t be easy just to click a finger and snap out of it. When you come out into the light of day after being in the dark, it takes time for your eyes to readjust.
It makes good sense, then, to move slowly for your own sake and also for the sake of others. Not everyone will come out of the lockdown in the same way or at the same pace, and so we need to be sensitive to one another and keep those eyes and ears of our hearts peeled. Let’s know how to wait for one another as well as to keep encouraging one another to move forward!
One of the small steps now permitted by the Scottish Government, as part of the move into “Phase 2”, is the possible reopening of churches for private prayer as of Monday 22 June. Bishop Nolan has made a short video on the subject which you can find at: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2661970387456369.
The reopening of the churches for private prayer sounds straightforward enough. You would think that all it takes is to go back to doing what we did for the week or so before the full lockdown kicked in (hand sanitising and keeping our distance).
Alas, it is not in fact so simple. The instructions from both the Government and the Bishops of Scotland require quite a bit of organising and infrastructure to be in place first. These include, for example: a booking system for people to reserve a time to visit the church; a welcome ministry to escort you in and out; and a cleaning and disinfecting ministry to work on the seating area in which you were praying.
Even if the churches are only to be opened for an hour on a few selected days, this still demands a lot of availability and dedication from the volunteers needed. We will require their input more especially in Phase 3, when we can again come to Mass, so we have to be considerate and not ask too much of them.
Other matters to consider include safeguarding for vulnerable adults (which can be any adult who becomes upset for whatever reason while in the church), the likely low demand from parishioners given the restrictive conditions to visit the church (not forgetting the face mask) and the management of visitors to both Largs and possibly Millport who would want to drop in for a visit “on spec.”
There are also various logistical aspects to the preparation of the church for the reopening in time for Phase 3, and therefore for the resumption of Mass, which are still underway. These clearly must be prioritized.
Hence, after not a little prayer, consultation and reflection, I have very reluctantly taken the decision that, on balancing all the issues concerned, it is better to delay the opening of our churches until Phase 3 comes in.
There is no question, of course, that in and of itself private prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is a significant spiritual and even psychological good. I hope you would know that, were all things equal, I would be the first in wanting to usher you all in to do just that! The problem here is not one of importance, but one of practicality. The Lord himself is aware of that, too, and so I trust in his providential timing to make it once again possible for us all to come and go from the church as our second home.
I realise my decision may disappoint some of you, but I hope you will understand that such is not my intention at all. Rather, my responsibility demands that I take all the factors at play into consideration and, after due consultation, take the best decision which the situation on the ground suggests.
It’s also worth recalling that Phase 3 (projected to begin in mid-August) is not so far away (if we observe Phase 2 properly and if there is no resurgence of the virus), so I ask you to bear with me for some more weeks. Once we are back at Mass, then we can review the matter of openings for private prayer in the light of all the circumstances of that moment.
While you may not be able yet to come before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer, please know that I spend a lot of time before him on your behalf. May his grace, his strength and his love be poured out upon each of you, your loved ones and all whom you know.
In the Heart of Jesus whose Feast we celebrate today,
Mgr. Peter Magee, PP, 19th June 2020