Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Volunteer stewards helping to keep parishioners safe

ST Michael’s Catholic Church in Sonning Common has used volunteer stewards to help during the coronavirus crisis.

They help with guiding people into the church in Peppard Road and ensuring social distancing guidelines are followed.

Brian Theobald, the church deacon, said: “We can only open because we have a sufficient number of stewards to help us.

“In the weeks leading up to when the church could re-open, we went round it with a 2m rod to see where we could seat people in pews to keep that distance.

“The stewards take names for track and trace as people come in and make note of where they sit.

“The benches have stickers telling people where they can sit and we have some designated for families, couples and individuals. When the mass or service is finished, benches are washed down with hot soapy water.

“We did have issues with people coming up to receive Holy Communion. People got up and moved around and the head caught up with the tail, as it were. Now people don’t get up and the stewards come along and get people instead.”

Services at the church are shorter than normal but all are streamed on YouTube.

Mr Theobald said: “Our church can fit 40 people maximum but people have started to come back and we are getting over 80 people over the course of three services on a Sunday.”

The church doors and windows are kept open during services to improve air circulation, which is encouraged in the government guidelines.

The same is true at Springwater Church in Blounts Court Road, Peppard Common.

Linsey Potter, who runs the church with her husband Kevin, said: “We have the windows open so we encourage people to wear warm clothes.

“We have a one-way system and a sign-in sheet for track and trace. We have signs everywhere reminding people to socially distance and to encourage people to give way to others when walking through the church.

“We’ve positioned the chairs so they are 2m apart and we all wear masks, except the people who lead the services on the platform.” Mrs Potter makes sure the church is cleaned after every service, paying special attention to the microphone that is used.

Services take place on Sundays and there are events that take place throughout the week, including a women’s group and a breadmaking workshop called Compassionate Loaf. The bread is currently being donated to a food bank.

“We also have a parent and toddler group that takes place in the garden,” said Mrs Potter.

“We are looking at bringing that inside the church but it would mean we would have to limit the numbers further.

“People have definitely been good about following the rules. Sometimes people do forget but we all do that. It’s like when you go to Tesco and forget your mask.”

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