December 23, 2020
Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Philip the Apostle Church:
There have been numerous inquiries regarding Christmas Masses following Governor Lee’s new Executive Order regarding the spread of COVID. Tennessee has been the worst in the nation for the spread of COVID per 100,000 people. Today it has slipped to second worst.
Bishop Spalding wishes to demonstrate solidarity and show support for the Governor’s initiative, taking proper and extra precautions during this critical time. Diocesan employees will be working from home through at least until Monday, January 11. Our parish offices are currently closed for Christmas, but we will ponder what seems most prudent regarding the return of our own employees. I am grateful for our employees and volunteers who are still willing to help prepare the church for Christmas.
Churches are exempt from the Governor’s Executive Order limiting gatherings to no more than ten people, so we will still have our Christmas Masses. The Bishop has asked parishes to practice caution and to fully enforce safety protocols for Christmas Masses.
As much as I loathe discouraging anyone from attending a Christmas Mass, I must encourage you to keep in mind how serious the spread of COVID is. We anticipate many more people at Mass than usual (as it is every Christmas). Knowing the risks of the current rate of infection and that Masses will be crowded, make a careful and prudent decision for yourself and those you love when considering Mass attendance. The Bishop’s dispensation from the requirement of attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation remains in effect.
For the safety of all who join us, we will enforce all COVID safety protocols.
- Masks are required to enter the church and masks must remain on throughout the Mass. We have not required the wearing of masks while people are seated because of adequate social-distancing. However, because of increased attendance, adequate social-distancing will be somewhat compromised. So, we ask that you keep your mask on during Christmas Masses.
- We will do our best to achieve social-distancing. Once church seating is “COVID full,” we will utilize an overflow area in the Community Center. We will have an overflow Mass for the 4:00 p.m. Mass. The other Masses will most likely be live-streamed to the Community Center.
- All of our Masses will be live-streamed for your convenience at home.
I want COVID to go away as much as anybody, but it is here and unfortunately it will remain for many months to come. In the meantime, I want all of our parishioners to be as safe as possible when attending Mass. If all of us double-down on our precautions and take what we know are the safest and most prudent precautions, the spread of the virus can be slowed.
Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Philip the Apostle:
COVID is alarmingly and dangerously on the increase.
Our County Mayor has renewed the Declaration of Emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic which was effective at 12:01 AM this (Saturday) morning. We are all required to wear cloth or other face coverings that cover the mouth and nose of a person in all “publicly-accessible places.” This includes all businesses, grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, banks, bars, salons, retail stores, medical and dental offices, entertainment, and sports venues, and any other indoor or outdoor areas where the public gathers.
Wearing a mask or other face covering is the best-known way to impede the spread of the corona virus along with social distancing of at least six feet wherever possible and washing and sanitizing our hands frequently.
Places of worship are listed as an exception in the Emergency Declaration unless the house of worship requires the wearing of a mask. Bishop Spalding has mandated that all Catholic institutions in the diocese follow all state and local COVID requirements; therefore, Saint Philip is not exempt from the Declaration of Emergency and thus wearing of cloth or other face coverings is required.
Over the last several weeks I have been reminding everyone to wear a mask or other face covering as you come to the church for Mass or to the offices to meet with the staff. This is an act of charity toward others. Now this is a mandate from our County Mayor.
As good Catholics and good citizens, it is important for us to do this for the good of all. If we each do our part, it will go a long way toward helping slow the spread of this virus.
I know that I can count on you to help us. This is serious, so serious in fact, failure to wear a mask or other face covering is considered a Class A misdemeanor while the Declaration of Emergency is in effect.
While the Declaration of Emergency is in effect, I renew the request for everyone to seriously consider receiving Communion in the hand and not on the tongue.
As one local church sign says: “Spread Jesus, not COVID. Wear a mask.”