St. Mary Star of the Sea. Largs
Covid-19 News Bulletin, No. 7
23rd December 2020
Dear Sisters and Brothers
It was 9th October when I wrote the last Covid-19 Bulletin. At that time, I was hopeful that we were on the way out of our current predicament, slowly but surely. However, you don’t need me to tell you that things are not quite working out that way. It seems that, in the short term anyway, Covid the Coward has outplayed us and has gained the upper hand.
I am, however, avidly Covid-defiant! There is no shortage of instances from the past in which the onslaught of what seemed the mightier force was roundly defeated by the defiant and persistent courage of the underdog. So, we will get through this with a combination of rigorous observance of the safety measures enjoined on us, a strong and creative spirit of solidarity and hope among us and, of course, the grace of our merciful Lord. Cowards eventually fall back in the end and the resilience of the human spirit, aided and abetted by nothing less than the Spirit of God, will conquer.
So, in the face of the new restrictions which will now be upon us from Boxing Day, I encourage you both to observe them religiously and to look on them as a renewed challenge to your fighting spirit. Try and be creative in exploring new and different ways of making and keeping contact with those you love and those in need. Don’t just wait on the vaccine for the body, but develop your own vaccine for the mind and heart and soul. Summon your resources to be positive in your thinking and attitude; insist more on prayer to restore and calm your soul; pursue authentic joy and laughter; shun negative thinking and a critical spirit; restrict the frequency of Covid news you read or hear. For it’s not just our bodies that need to pull through this vaccine, but also our minds and spirits. Covid has the capacity to destroy these, too, so we must outwit it with persevering emphasis on what is truly good for ourselves, our loved ones and our families.
Now that we are entering into Tier 4, this will mean changes in our attendance at Mass. Let me spell these out for you and reiterate some things you already know but which it does no harm to repeat.
- Beginning with the 6pm Vigil on 26th December, Mass attendance will now be limited to 20. This number does not include myself or the stewards. It does include children under 12 and those who are performing a service (reader, sanitizer, organist). Just to be absolutely clear, the new restrictions do not affect our Christmas Masses which can therefore still have a maximum of 50 persons in attendance at each Mass depending on how the 31 places available are populated. A few vacancies for Christmas Masses have now come up, so please phone the booking number and see if you can still have a place.
- Although a vaccine is on the way, the authorities repeatedly urge us to keep observing the basic measures of hand-sanitising, face-covering, safe-distancing and self-isolating if you have any of the tell-tale symptoms of Covid-19 (high temperature, a new continuous cough or loss or change to your sense of taste or smell). Please observe these measures fully as you come to church, are in church and leave church. I would invite anyone who feels unwell at all to remain at home, just to be on the safe side. If you have booked a place and decide to remain at home even 24 hours before the Mass you have booked, please have the courtesy to phone the booking number again and let it be known you won’t be coming. Your place can then be offered to someone else.
- I know it is difficult, but I have been encouraged to ask you please to try and not congregate, even in small groups, as you come onto the church grounds or leave them. It is especially important not to congregate inside the church. I am aware that this goes against the grain and that we all just want a wee chat, but our lovely human nature is such that it could be its own worst enemy precisely in doing these oh so normal things. Please try!
- Booking hours will continue as before: Wednesdays, 6-8pm; Thursdays & Fridays, 6-7pm. Some who have already booked for this coming weekend (26/27 December) may have to be asked to step down. It will be the last ones in order to have booked. I am truly sorry about this and take the responsibility for it, but it is better to observe the rules in order to maintain safety and credibility. This will hopefully only ever be a one-off.
- Funerals remain with 20 as the limit. This number includes children under 12. It does not include myself or the stewards. If a family wishes the coffin to be received into the church the night before the funeral, 20 is the limit on the same conditions. Clearly, the 20 people can be different at the two services. The family of the deceased will be put in touch with Roger Townley who will guide them on the matter of Test and Trace
- Weddings also remain with a limit of 20. This number includes the Bridge, Groom, Chief Bridesmaid and Best Man and children under 12. The couple will be put in touch with Roger Townley who will guide them on the matter of Test and Trace.
- Baptisms also stop at 20 persons, including the child(ren) to be baptised, the parents and godparents and any other children under 12. The family will be put in touch with Roger Townley who will guide them on the matter of Test and Trace.
- To reassure everyone, the church building is always disinfected and ventilated after every Mass.
- Again, for the sake of reassurance, our heating system is allowed to remain on during Mass both because it draws air from outside and because the church is ventilated.
- All items on the altar, including hosts, ciboria, chalices, water containers, etc., are prepared only by myself, having observed all of the requirements necessary to ensure sanitisation. The same is true of the various accessories used for baptisms, weddings and funerals.
- You will have noticed that one of our organists now plays music in the church gallery at the Saturday Vigil Mass. In early January, I will instal three plexiglass screens upstairs (7’ x 6’) which will allow one person to sing solo upstairs, be it the organist or a soloist, at appropriate points during the liturgy. Government advice permits one singer under these conditions.
- The Bishops of Scotland are finalizing a Live-streaming Protocol covering matters such as who can and who must not be seen on camera, etc.. Once I am in possession of the final document, I will inform you of its main provisions.
I want again to thank publicly and most heartily our Covid Team in its various components, as well as all the other volunteers, for their superb and sterling work of service to our community at this time. Inevitably, in situations like the current one, this or that person will consider that they have not been treated fairly, or will disagree with one or other point of strategy or approach. I am especially sorry for, and aware of, the disappointment someone will feel if he or she cannot get to the Mass desired. However, I invite everyone please to exercise some understanding and restraint. No-one wants to be unfair or unkind. It usually simply comes down to arithmetic!
The other day we had the longest night of the year. It’s only going to get lighter now. Let’s follow mother nature in the coming months: it’s going to get brighter; the night will pass. Maybe by the time Easter comes, victory over Covid day can be at least anticipated more fully if it hasn’t already arrived. So, lift up your hearts, as the priest says at Mass, lift them up to the Lord!
Wishing you and all your loved ones the deep peace and inner strength of soul which the Incarnation of the Son of God brings. May your Christmas be holy, happy and healthy! And may 2021 be truly a year of grace for us all.
Yours devotedly in the Lord,
Father Peter, PP.