In the wake of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, cancellations and closings have become the new norm for events and public gatherings to stop the spread of the virus.
For local churches, however, their doors are still open.
“It has made a lot of changes for all of us,” said Fr. Steve Mattson of Church of the Resurrection in Lansing. “We’re cognizant of the need to spiritually meet the needs of our people but also to protect their safety.”
On March 13, Bishop Boyea of the Diocese of Lansing released a statement regarding attendance at mass going forward. Catholics have been “dispensed” or freed from the obligation of attending Sunday mass.
“While we are not cancelling Sunday Masses, we will attempt to comply with the Governor’s new Executive Order limiting public gatherings to 250 souls,” the statement said. “The dispensation from Sunday Mass attendance, and the Diocese’s encouragement that all those who are sick or vulnerable should remain home, is aimed at reducing attendance below these thresholds.”
Fr. Mattson has made sure hand sanitizer dispensers are at every entrance and has put a few changes into the routine of mass.
“No sign of peace, no holding hands, just to avoid that contact,” said Fr. Mattson. “We’ve [also] pulled the holy water fonts.”
Along with the Bishop, Fr. Mattson has asked those who are sick or older to remain at home.
“I’ve encouraged everyone who can to stay home to, as I’ve said, cloister at home, especially those who are older,” said Fr. Mattson.
Like other churches, the masses will be broadcast through livestream for people to watch at home. The church is also prepared to deliver communion to people at home.
“Our hope is to be able to bring them communion in a way that’s safe for both the minister and themselves, but just to avoid the spread of the virus,” Fr. Mattson said.
Fr. Mattson believes this situation is a good reminder for us all to take a step back from our busy lives and think about what is truly important.
“These are times when all of us feel vulnerable and I think it’s one of the graces of this moment,” said Fr. Mattson. “We realize that we are not as in charge of our lives as we might think.”