Every state and diocese is at a different place in their phased reopening. I’ve been back at Mass for a few weeks now, and we’re even back to our normal Daily Mass schedule, which is a blessing for me. A lunchtime Mass fits much better into my schedule than a 9 am Mass, although I was able to rearrange things most days of the week.
But just because my parish is back at Mass doesn’t mean yours is, and it doesn’t mean that it’s back to normal. Looking around seeing people in masks, seeing pews taped off, going up to communion in an awkward socially distanced line, and then cleaning and sanitizing my pew before I leave. These are just some of the things that make Mass different now.
What have we learned from this? Where do we go from here? There are many things that have begun during the past 10 or so weeks that should stay forever. What are they? Live Streaming, virtual small groups, sharing our needs with one another, reaching out by phone to the other members of our community, and being mindful of our web and social media presence.
I found the above article published a few weeks ago by a Jesuit in Montana. Most likely, their COVID-19 experience has been different than yours. He writes, “Montana—with under 500 cases and fewer than 20 deaths from Covid-19—is a vastly different reality than many other regions in the country.”
But the part of the article I really wanted to share with you today is a paragraph near the end where he reflects on the things that have changed, positively and negatively. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, it’ll take less than five minutes. But here’s the part that struck me:
But the time apart was not time wasted. It took a pandemic, but we are discovering ways to move our community online—or more precisely, to discover our community already online. Like many parishes, we knew we were missing the move into the digital space, and we are lucky to have deeply committed staff ready to move us there. Who knew that a smartphone was to become our best friend inside a church? With it as our camera, week by week, we got better at livestreaming Mass from the sanctuary and from the living room of the Jesuit community. We loved both settings. Viewers appreciated the close-ups of the altar, the chance to post petitions during the Mass and to pray at a distance with each other. And this way of being community is not going away, once in-person worship is again possible. We now have more ways to connect, and we intend to keep using them. That livestream is here to stay.Jack Bentz, S.J.
What have you learned during this time? What will become part of your parish’s normal?