The Catholic churches in southern Nevada are allowed to reopen for masses this weekend, but not all of them have to.
Bishop George Leo Thomas of the Diocese of Las Vegas this week lifted a suspension of public masses that has been in effect since March. However, he leaves it to the pastors and administrators of the parish to decide whether their parishes are ready to reopen safely.
The Order allows Catholic churches to join a number of houses of worship that reopened last weekend as part of the second phase of Governor Steve Sisolak’s plan. This plan allows public services but limits attendance to 50 with social distancing.
Thomas’s permission to re-celebrate Sunday and weekday masses comes into effect on Saturday.
In the policy, however, Thomas writes that his exemption from the obligation of Catholics to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect. He encourages congregations to continue to broadcast live Sunday and daily masses for Catholics at risk and others who are not yet comfortable.
“While we recognize that many are eager to return to Mass as soon as possible, it is vital that elderly or medically vulnerable people take special care that it is advisable to return to public services early,” he writes.
Each parish must submit a mass plan to the diocese. Since attendance at the masses will be limited to 50 – including priests, celebrants and staff – Thomas recommends introducing a reservation system.
Participants over the age of 10 are required to wear face masks and worshipers are put through a “temperature review process,” writes Thomas.
Weeping and choir lofts will be closed, and only every other or third bench may need to be used for social distancing. Holy water scriptures will be blank, common missals will not be used, there will be no sign of peace, and communion will only be administered in the form of the host.
Several places of worship in the valley resumed public service last weekend. Among them were the International Church of Las Vegas, the Liberty Baptist Church, the Good Samaritan Lutheran Church, Masjid Ibrahim, and Chabad in southern Nevada.
The New Song Church in Henderson is to be publicly worshiped again this weekend. “We are ready to go,” said Rev. Paul Block, senior pastor.
One service on Saturday evening and two services on Sunday morning are planned. “But I have no idea what to expect,” said Block. “We know that we have to be flexible and only have to adjust from week to week.”
The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had previously announced a gradual plan for the resumption of worship. However, Joyce Haldeman, spokeswoman for the church in southern Nevada, said no date had been set for resumption of personal services and meetings.
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