PROVIDENCE — Following the issuance of updated health guidelines by Gov. Daniel McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Health, which have increased the allowed seating capacity in houses of worship from 75 to 80 percent and reduced physical distancing from six feet to three feet, the Diocese of Providence will reinstate several liturgical and sacramental practices suspended since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The diocesan Office of Divine Worship on Monday issued the new guidelines for pastors, which will become effective Friday, May 7, when regular weekday Masses can resume, and any signage related to COVID restrictions should be removed. At that time, the practice of parishioners being required to make a reservation to attend a Mass should also cease.
While the use of a face mask is still required while indoors for large gatherings, the guidelines say masks may be omitted for reasons of health.
Among the liturgical practices to be reinstated are processions to and from the altar, including the Offertory.
Holy water fonts may once again be filled at the entrances to the church, and the passing of the basket at the time of offertory should resume.
The guidelines also call for the encouragement of congregational singing along with choirs, according to the physical distancing set forth by the R.I. Department of Health. Hymnals and other worship texts can again be placed in the pews.
The admonition to offer the sign of peace may be given, although the sign can be expressed verbally, without physical contact.
The lay faithful may receive Holy Communion either on the hand or on the tongue, although the distribution of the Precious Blood at Holy Communion to worshippers should remain suspended.
To help protect their congregations, pastors are asked to make available a sufficient number of hand sanitizer dispensers at the vestibule of the church for use by parishioners upon entering, and proper hand hygiene is encouraged, especially at the time of Holy Communion.
Pastors are being asked to allow for proper ventilation for increased airflow and HVAC filtration in their churches whenever possible.
Parishioners are encouraged to maintain the recommended physical distance between each other, with the exception of members of the same household when seated in the pews. They are also asked to avoid any unnecessary crowding at the entrances of the church and in the aisles.