- Why are we still wearing masks in church on a Sunday?
As a rule, masks are no longer mandatory in Church. However, the guidelines from the Archdiocese of Melbourne also state that they are required when 1.5 metres social distancing cannot be maintained.
A few weeks ago, the parish took the decision to forgo the 1.5 social distancing requirement to increase the numbers allowed into the Church This was to prevent a situation where parishioners would have to be turned away because the limits on how many people can attend Mass at any one time cannot be exceeded. However, to do this legally, the wearing of masks had to be reintroduced.
2. If that is the case, why can’t we put the seats back to the way they were Pre-COVID-19?
It is possible given that everyone is being asked to wear a mask. It was decided to leave the seats as they are until after the weekend of 22/23 May and review again.
One matter for consideration is that the current guidelines from the Archdiocese of Melbourne state that everyone wishing to receive Communion should use hand sanitiser immediately beforehand. At present the distance between the pews in our Church allows the volunteers to offer hand sanitiser to parishioners in their seats. This in turn allows plenty of time for hands to dry prior to receiving the Eucharist, something which parishioners have expressed their gratitude for. If the seats are moved back to the way they were prior to COVID-19, this will have to be taken into consideration should the requirement for hand sanitising prior to receiving communion remain in place.
Are the measurements in our Church correct?
In response to parishioner concerns a representative from the Building Department of the Archdiocese of Melbourne came out to inspect our Church several weeks ago. He confirmed that the way the Church was measured is correct.
How does the 1.5 metre social distancing work?
The 1.5 metre social distancing rule is the distance that must be maintained between you and the next person and applies whether they be beside, in front, behind or are situated diagonally to you.
5. Why are there stricter rules in place for places of worship in comparison to other venues?
It is hard to give a definitive answer on this as reasons have not been published in recent weeks, at least as far as I am aware. Reasons that I have heard in conversation is because we sing together in Church and that Churches generally are not well ventilated. Something perhaps we need to reflect on is that we are all together on a Sunday for one hour in our Church building and currently all doors and windows are understandably closed to keep out the cold.
Are venues still being inspected to determine whether they are complying with COVID-19 regulations?
It is not known how regularly this takes place. However, inspections are still taking place and venues are being fined when they do not comply. The maximum fine for non-compliance is close to $10,000.
How long will this go on for?
No one really knows. What is known is that current regulations for venues will change again and restrictions will ease again on May 28th. It is hopeful that Places of Worship will be included this time when these changes come out. The advice from the Offices of the Archdiocese of Melbourne representing the Archbishop is to wait until something is in writing confirming this.
One thing that will remain indefinitely is the QR Code requirements to check in each time upon entry into the Church. Recently all Parishes were asked to get the Service Victoria QR Code and to organize volunteers to help and ensure that everyone checks in by QR Code upon entry into the Church. Both these requirements have been met by St Joseph’s Malvern for the past few months.