Thank you for your efforts last weekend as we made our first attempt to comply with the new Government ‘Traffic Light’ regulations. Certainly for me this has lead to one of the most difficult times in my priestly life as I observe the wonderful unity and strong sense of communion we have worked so hard on over the years threatened by this pandemic.
As you know our plan revolved around the desire to have available both open masses (Yellow) and vaccine pass masses (Blue). Yellow masses are of course restricted to 50 people and therefore needed to be booked via the diocesan website.
The spread of blue and yellow masses followed some principles many of us felt important. Firstly, mass, by its very nature ought to be open to all, indeed we pray every week in our parish prayer that we might be a community “… where everyone is welcome..” To turn people away on the basis of a conscience decision allowed by the Church, is a dilemma we now reluctantly face. Yes, most voices in the Church favor vaccination, including, as we learned this week, the much admired Pope Benedict, however a deep acceptance of human dignity and the bodily sovereignty of all persons remains at the heart of Catholic teaching. Accompanying our parish discernment must be a commitment to respectful and informed dialogue and of course the charity and love for our neighbor which is at the heart of the Christian vocation.
The other factor which led to our decision to have open ‘yellow’ masses in our precovid mass times was the observation that the group suffering from increasing marginalization are those who are choosing not to be vaccinated. Many families in our own parish are suffering considerably in this regard. We have set out to make those being marginalised by the rest of society feel at home with us. We feel this is our Christian duty to walk with the suffering in a particular way.
We know that doing this has caused some issues for others in the parish and we thank you for your generosity in accepting this. Based on what we are learning we are very open to fine tuning our mass schedule once we are clear on what is working and what is not.
This is what we know now from last weekend. 367 attended our Masses, which we think is about 53 people less than our normal level two attendance across the parish. This is a concern for us . We also had some capacity issues at two of our four Yellow Masses. In response to this we are currently exploring a strategy whereby utilising our church spaces better we might increase the capacity of these yellow masses. Other parishes around New Zealand are doing this. In the mean time we ask that people continue to register for these masses.
At each of our two Blue Masses we had fewer people than we expected; approx 150 people across the two. Again we will continue to monitor attendance this weekend.
Across all of our Masses we have noticed that mask wearing is not common. It is now a requirement for all workers/volunteers at Mass and is encouraged for all those attending. We would encourage all parishioners, who are able, to consider adopting the habit of wearing a mask as per the Ministry of Health guidelines.
We experienced some difficulties with music and technology at some Masses last week which have been worked on. There is also a general lack of clarity across parishes as to what liturgical practises can be restored under the Traffic Light settings. We are seeking further clarification here.
Our plan going forward is to run with the same arrangements for a while to get a better picture of requirements and then do some fine tuning. We have received parishioner feedback and will be reviewing this every week as part of this fine tuning.
We strongly encourage you to offer your feedback within the Engagement and Culture survey process so it is easier for the feedback to be analysed.
In the meantime we ask once again for your charity as we navigate this complex and constantly shifting landscape. Our Senior Leadership Team are working incredibly hard to manage and resolve the issues before us – but we are not superhuman so there will be, we acknowledge, mistakes and missteps along the way. We thank you in advance for your patience. Please pray for us.