After nearly four months, we resumed public Masses at my parish this weekend, and what a blessing it was.

It wasn’t ideal. Our church is closed for now, while the pews and floor undergo restoration and repairs, so we had Mass in our (un-airconditioned) school hall.

No reservations were required. People were told to line up outside the school a half hour before Mass.

We were set up to accommodate about 175 people, including standees. Turns out, we didn’t need that much space.

The Saturday vigil Mass had about 48 people — including the priest, deacon, pianist, leader of song and lector. Each Sunday Mass had about 75. The liturgy was streamlined, with just a couple of hymns. Even the psalm was spoken, not sung. (My original homily Saturday clocked in at six minutes; I was asked to trim it when I delivered it again on Sunday. I managed to whittle it down to four minutes.)

The entire Mass was about 35 minutes, from beginning to end.

Communion was distributed at the end of Mass, near the two exits of the hall. I didn’t wear my mask during the liturgy, since I was pretty far removed from people, put I did put it on for communion. Everyone I saw had a mask. People were told “Please receive in the hand,” and almost all of them did. (A few had to be reminded to remove their rubber gloves.)

We also had a Liturgy of the Word, held in the (air conditioned) convent chapel. It is easily accessible by ramp, for those who might have trouble navigating the steps into the school hall. This was sparsely attended, with just a handful of people, mostly in wheelchairs.

Consensus: So far, so good. We’ll see how it goes. I suspect attendance will remain low for the rest of the summer — the big hall cooled (barely) by big fans isn’t exactly a draw for people — and I imagine a lot of folks want to wait. Too many people feel gatherings like this are a risk, particularly for older folks.

But, thank God we were able to be together again and make the Eucharist available.

Finally, it was only too fitting that he entrance hymn for this Sunday was “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”:

Oh God, our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home…

…Before the hills in order stood
All Earth received her frame
From everlasting thou’ art God
To endless years the same.

As I told people at the start of my homily: “Welcome back. And welcome home.”

(Additional photographs by Regina Faighes)