Celebrating Mass in a shophouse

Christianity is over 2000 years old. It is good that changes are made over the years as some things become obsolete and other issues require due consideration and changes.

May 02, 2019

Dear Editor,
Christianity is over 2000 years old. It is good that changes are made over the years as some things become obsolete and other issues require due consideration and changes.

I am writing on an issue I experienced during the recent Easter celebratory mass on Sunday.

We gather for worship in a threestorey intermediate shophouse. Getting a location for a church is difficult if not impossible around our vicinity but that’s another story. Under normal days, when the congregation is smaller, there is no issue.

However, when there is suddenly an overwhelming crowd, as happens during certain days of the church calendar, eg Easter, people flood in.

All is not well, when you are worshipping in a shop house. Our church leaders must consider that celebrating Mass in a church is entirely different from that in a shop house.,

The congregation is made up of people: the old, the slightly disabled, people who may be asthmatic, people who have heart problems.

Why I mention this is because I experienced such a situation that made me leave the third floor due to the crowd, poor air circulation and claustrophobic environment, to find a place on the ground floor, with the thought that if there was no place, I would have no choice but to go home on medical grounds at least.

In a church, there is a main entrance and many exits. Ventilation is good, considering the high roof structure of the church and many electric fans and, perhaps, in some churches, commercial air conditioning. The church may be packed and emergency exits are reasonably in order should there be any untoward incidents.

Compare this to a shophouse. Such a place is not designed for crowds. The emergency exit is not sufficient in the event of an emergency and if something happens, there will be chaos and I need not elaborate what would be the outcome.

In a crowded place with one door (entrance) and the rear is actually locked (for security purposes) the “enclosed” place is not suitable for the good 1-2 hours of service. The ventilation is affected and, with the larger crowds, more carbon dioxide is released.

Some may feel claustrophobic in a small place with so many people. In short, it may be a fire trap.

I am not sure if the Church has ever considered fire safety in such a cramped place of worship. Though a remote possibility, there could be sabotage, which I hope will not happen in our country. The bombing of churches in Sri Lanka just raised this doubt. For the risk managers, these are very real problems. Celebrating Mass in a shophouse My recommendations:

1. When Mass is celebrated in a shophouse, perhaps the priest celebrating Mass should shorten the Mass slightly. (make the homily shorter). Note that if it is a shophouse, parking in the area will be a problem as well.

2. Perhaps there could be two Masses on such important days.

I hope the Church will consider the issues I have highlighted and deliberate on positive action for the safety of all concerned.

Easter wishes
Via Email

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