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Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory

HSE guidelines – Bishop’s views – November 25th 2021

Letter to Clergy re HSE Guidelines

Dear All

I’m sure some of you noticed that the HSE Guidance re places of worship was, finally, updated in recent days. Please see the link to the HSE webpage below.

It is very detailed and one might say they are certainly ‘covering themselves’. That said, the level of infection is now alarming as Christmas nears and the onus is on us all to take appropriate individual and local responsibility and to engage in prudent risk assessment.

If one word needs to be stressed it is VENTILATION and I can only implore you not to be gainsaid by anyone wanting ‘to keep the heat in’.
Despite the fact that the document has been re written, there is little significant change from our point of view.

There is a continued onus on those who preside at services and oversee church buildings to ensure that the guidance is followed. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that services should not proceed where this is not the case.

And one may need to be quite explicit in advising people at the beginning of the service what they should and should not do.

Not long ago I was asked by someone who clearly felt vulnerable and unsafe to remind members of the congregation politely to wear their face masks properly. This is but one example of how our duty of care for others must not be allowed to slip.
I can but encourage you to read and consider the material carefully, and to do so along with church wardens, musicians and the like.

In the area of music … perhaps not surprisingly given the trajectory of infection … there is little cause for comfort. While there are, as before, specific arrangements for choral groups, all is placed in the context of singing and voice projection being explicitly risky. And as regards congregational singing we read
members of the congregation should avoid singing, shouting, chanting and raising of voices, as this may increase the risk of airborne transmission of the virus; if possible encourage the use of microphones or similar equipment to minimise voice volume”
These HSE guidelines do emphasise the gravity of the situation and the need to be inordinately cautious in all our liturgical and sociable preparation for Advent and Christmas. The presence of glory albeit in a still small voice comes to mind …
Again, I do ask you to give careful attention to this material …. it may be somewhat discouraging in context, but the churches have been asking for it for many weeks.

As always