Some London Diocese churches reopen Sunday for first time in months
LONDON, ONT. -- The doors were open Sunday at St. Michael's Parish in London, Ont. for the first time since March.
"It's been over 100 days, so gathering the people to worship once again is incredible experience," says Father Murray Sample, St. Michael's pastor.
But the experience is a little different now. The church had 25 volunteers to implement the many guidelines and restrictions in place.
"We've closed every third row to make sure people are socially distanced," says Matthew Clarke of the Diocese of London (DOL) as he showed how the pews look inside the church.
"We're seating in groups and families can sit together but otherwise they are six feet apart from the next group. We also have the floor marked out as people go up to receive communion."
Many Catholics have indicated they will not attend in person yet.
Those who showed up felt not only safe, but the need to see their church community.
"Mass is relational and we need our people to help us pray together," says Debbie Walsh.
John Depass felt based on the protocols set out by the DOL, he believed it was safe to return. He also missed the in-person element.
"The main part of Catholic faith is receiving Holy Eucharist," says Depass.
"Watching on TV you can't receive the Holy Eucharist."
Margaret Kellow was one of the volunteers helping guide parishioners to their seats.
"I'm really impressed with how particular Father Murray and the church team has been and making sure all regulations are followed," says Kellow.
Bishop Ronald Fabbro of the DOL has dispensed people from the obligation of attending mass in person each Sunday, until the Advent season before Christmas.
St. Michael's is one eight Roman Catholic churches now open in London. The balance will open by July 5.
They still need to train volunteers and have the buildings marked to meet COVID-19 safety guidelines.
And for those who plan to attend in the coming weeks, you'll need to make a reservation to ensure there is room for you inside.
Father Murray quoted his receptionist who has been taking the reservations both on the phone and online.
"She says 'I feel like a restaurant or hotel receptionist planning bedroom occupations or table service. Here I am taking reservations for the banquet of the Lord," says Sample.