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Public worship resumed

Publish Date: 16-Jun-2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic slowed in Hong Kong, the government has begun to loosen restrictions on social gatherings. The three dioceses of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui resumed public worship on 1 June and churches held their first Sunday services with physical participation of the faithful on 7 June (Trinity Sunday) since the suspension of public worship in March. All churches made preparations for this important day. On the one hand, they looked forward to welcoming their congregation back to church to pray, sing hymns, and meet each other in person; on the other hand, they had to put in place all possible preventive measures to ensure that the congregation could worship in a safe environment. Despite all the excitements and hard work to prepare for the occasion, they did not expect a red rainstorm warning signal on the Trinity Sunday.

The Very Revd Samson Fan, Dean of All Saints’ Cathedral, said that the staff at the cathedral took photographs and produced three short videos to brief the parishioners about the cathedral’s new arrangements for Sunday services, their disease prevention guidance, and how to receive Holy Eucharist on June 7. To control the size of the congregation, the cathedral added service at 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon and invited parishioners to take part in keeping track of the number of parishioners attending each service. On Saturday, thirty minutes before the anticipated Sunday service started, parishioners who served as ushers and servers in the coming two weeks were invited for a briefing and the cathedral used the anticipated Sunday service as a rehearsal for Sunday.

Although everything went well on Saturday, a red rainstorm warning was hoisted on Sunday. There was some confusion when church staff took the temperatures of the parishioners at the entrance of the cathedral and when they ensured physical distancing when parishioners queued up to receive Holy Eucharist. Fortunately, people were spread across the anticipated service on Saturday and six services on Sunday and the total number of attendees in the first public worships after the pandemic was approximately half of that the cathedral had before the pandemic. Fr Fan found this a great exercise for clerics, ushers, and servers to review and improve the arrangements on next Sunday.

Fr Fan admitted that because everyone wanted to be better prepared, there were tensions between clerics, parishioners and staff at the discussions about arrangements. However, they all enjoyed the process because they were dedicated to their work. Fr Fan also said that although people could only see each other’s eyes on Sunday (people’s noses and mouths were hidden by face masks), they could not help showing how excited they were to meet each other in person again.

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