Wednesday afternoon, Bishop Mark J. Seitz announced that beginning Thursday June 11, Churches within El Paso County may begin Phase One of the Diocesan Protocols for Church gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diocese officials point out that the approved in church gatherings will adhere to the Social Distancing guidelines they set out at the start of the pandemic.
Via their news release, Phase One states:
Church gatherings remain limited to less than 10 people. But churches where disinfection and Social Distancing norms are strictly followed may be open for a time during the day for personal prayer by individuals.
Scheduled times for Confession may also be offered, provided the Social Distancing norms below are strictly followed.
Churches in the Diocese will continue to stream masses online with no more than 10 people in attendance.
Social Distancing Norms for Churches
● Throughout each phase of the plan to resume church gatherings, churches will ensure that the faithful keep at least 6 feet of separation between parties at all times everywhere on church property. When seated, 6 feet of separation must be maintained between parties, except when two or more members of the same household sit adjacent to one another, with 6 feet of separation on either side.
● These Social Distancing norms apply to all areas of the church and its property. If Mass or another prayer service occurs outdoors or is simulcast in a second space, for example, the following Social Distancing norms still apply.
● It is recommended that there be only one entrance used to enter the church. However, multiple exits should continue to be used.
● Every other pew in the church should be blocked off with rope or tape (not “Caution” tape) and remain empty. Hospitality ministers should guide families to seats so that social distancing is maintained. Clear signs should indicate which seats are available and which are closed.
● Lines 6 feet apart should be marked in the aisles to facilitate social distancing during the Communion Procession. The Communion Procession itself should be limited to one line only.
● Smaller spaces in which it would be difficult to maintain social distancing, such as cry rooms, should be closed.
● Once the church reaches 25% or 50% capacity (depending on the phase), it may be necessary for hospitality ministers to close the doors of the church and turn people away. This must be done with the greatest sense of hospitality and sensitivity. Hospitality ministers should guide people unable to enter the church to Masses at other times, on other days, on television, or online.
● After Mass concludes, families and groups from the same household should be dismissed by hospitality ministers in an orderly fashion to avoid crowding at the exits.
● All in the church age 2 or above — parishioners, ministers, volunteers, and clergy — must wear masks or fabric face coverings and avoid physical contact. Pastors should endeavor to provide masks or fabric face coverings to those who arrive without one.
● During Mass, clergy should not wear a mask or face covering except when distributing Communion. Lectors should remove their mask or face covering when proclaiming the Word at the ambo. Cantors and other music ministers may remove masks or face coverings while singing, so long as social distancing is strictly observed.