Some churches still closed due to distancing requirements

St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville and others around the diocese will remain temporarily closed for public Mass but will continue to offer the Liturgy via livestream. (Facebook)

As some churches opened their doors to resume public Mass, albeit with restrictions, a number of parishes had to delay their restart.

Since March 15, Mass has been a private affair, celebrated via virtual livestreaming into homes or through personal prayer and scripture reading.

St. Andrew in Clemson is one of the parishes that turned to livestreaming Sunday Mass during the mandated closing. In an email to parishioners, Father Dan McLellan said the parish would continue this procedure and remain closed through the rest of May.

At that time, “we will meet again to consider any changes in the policies of state and local government, and any changes in (Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone’s) guidance and that of Catholic Mutual, the diocesan insurer,” Father McLellan said in the email. 

The decision to not reopen St. Andrew yet reflects the challenge of complying with the social distancing and cleaning requirements for each Mass, Father McLellan said. Under the guidelines, a maximum of 75 people could attend each public Mass, but that figure would probably shrink in order to meet social distancing requirements.  

He also said the parish currently doesn’t have enough people to clean the church in a timely manner between each Mass. 

“Even with the generous volunteerism we see all the time, we could not get the numbers of people and requisite (cleaning) supplies together after each Mass to sanitize the building as required,” he said. 

Father Patrick Tuttle, pastor at St. Anthony of Padua in Greenville, said his parish would continue celebrating Mass virtually, while continuing to track the COVID-19 numbers provided by state health officials. As of May 12, Greenville County had the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

“In an effort to not prematurely enter into gathering while the pandemic is on this rise, we have decided to wait another week in the hopes of seeing a downturn in rates,” Father Tuttle said. 

Father Gregory West, pastor at St. Clare of Assisi on Daniel Island, said his parish is preparing to resume public Mass outdoors on June 7. Mass was being celebrated at nearby Bishop England High School, but that option was removed due to the logistics involved in meeting social distancing and sanitizing requirements. 

“Studies show that the likelihood of spreading the virus is significantly reduced while people are outdoors,” Father West said in an email to the parish. 

The parish also will offer a “drive-in” option, Father West said, which will allow people to remain in their cars while celebrating Mass from their mobile devices. Clergy and ministers will ride a golf cart to a designated area for the distribution of Holy Communion.

Father West said St. Clare’s new way of celebrating the Mass is “a work in progress.” He thanked parishioners for their “understanding, prayers, and continued support of all we are trying to do to keep us moving ahead in our quest to build the Kingdom of God.”