Church-goers will be able to return to face-to-face religious services this weekend after months of digital worship.
Up to 50 persons will be able to attend services at one time, subject to the four square metre rule and adjustments to communal practices.
Like many churches and other places of worship in the region, Our Lady of the Way Emu Plains Parish has opted for new innovative measures during COVID-19 restrictions to keep their community connected.
This included a parish blog, Facebook live streamed mass, special videos from the Parish Priest Father Paul Roberts and even drive through blessings over the Easter long weekend.
Fr Roberts said it’s been great to see and feel the connectedness of the catholic community, even over social media during this time but is looking forward to welcoming parishioners again.
“Among many moving stories I’ve heard, one person said to me they’ve never felt so connected to the parish community than during this time and I think that’s really moving and shows people’s commitment to the online experience,” he said.
“This online experience has actually allowed us to connect with people who may not normally attend a church service as well.”
Fr Roberts said the time has allowed him to reflect on the way technology can be adopted alongside traditional ceremonies for the benefit of the community.
“It’s opened by eyes, we’ve got to keep integrating our formats for people and look at how we can integrate the message of faith and togetherness in people’s contemporary lives,” he said.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said people need to be aware of hygiene measures in places of worship.
“Places of worship will be asked to find alternatives to practices that might spread the virus like singing, sharing books and even passing around the collection plate to reduce infection risks,” Dr Chant said.
Fr Roberts said the parish have put measures in place to alleviate the risk of the virus spreading.
“We’ve got markers to spread out spaces and a prayer hospitality team to welcome and assist with our regulations and to help record attendees,” he said.
As part of the announcement, 20 people will now also be able to attend weddings and 50 to attend funerals.
A graduate of Western Sydney University, Nicola Barton is a news journalist with the Western Weekender, primarily covering crime and politics.