The following is an excerpt from a letter issued by Bishop Susan
Greetings in Christ,
As the world continues to struggle with the novel coronavirus, in Ontario we are beginning to put measures in place for a cautious re-opening and for the construction of what will be our “new normal” for the foreseeable future. But even as we do this, we continue to hold in prayer those who have experienced the hardship of grief and continued struggle that this pandemic has caused for so many in our communities and around the world.
In our diocese, we are continuing to monitor improving local public health indicators as we work towards a cautious and gradual return to our church buildings this fall moving into the Amber Stage:
• Corporate worship may be conducted in-person; the wearing of face coverings is strongly
encouraged, unless contraindicated:
o The Eucharist may be celebrated, with distribution of the bread only.
o Singing by soloists or small ensemble/ small choir may be permitted with
appropriate physical distancing. No congregational singing.
o The Peace will be shared using non-contact gestures from pews.
• Online services continue to be offered in addition to in-person worship.
• Larger in-person meetings may resume where physical distancing is possible.
• Food and beverages are not to be served or shared at coffee hours, meetings, pot-lucks.
• Routine pastoral care visits may resume, observing heightened hygiene practices.
After consideration of all the variables and accounting for the important provision of time for holidays for leaders, I have tentatively set the 13th of September, 2020 as the date parishes may begin to re-open for Sunday worship. This date is subject to change, should local public health indicators trend negatively in the coming weeks.
Our re-opening guide represents the collective effort of a number of people from across the diocese with various policy and health care backgrounds, as well as wardens and clergy, by whom it has been reviewed and edited.
Before re-opening for Sunday worship, each parish will need to develop a comprehensive re-opening plan. I hasten to add that parishes do not have to open on the earliest possible date, and I expect some parishes may choose not to re-open immediately given the preparation that will be required.
I also want to emphasize that one should not feel obliged to attend an in-person worship service, even if it is now possible. This is especially true for vulnerable people for whom there is an increased risk of more severe outcomes from COVID-19.
Although we have fresh challenges ahead of us as we proceed to a measured re-opening - and although this next stage is going to take some patience and some time to work out – nevertheless, we anticipate with joy our reunion with the people of God in our church buildings. It will happen perhaps not in the way we might have hoped, but in the ways that are possible while keeping everyone as safe as we are able.
And as we methodically go about this shift in our present circumstances, it’s good for us to remind ourselves why we are taking such important precautions: for the love of our neighbour.
The diocesan staff are here to help with this transition, so please don’t hesitate to be in touch with us and/or your regional archdeacons if you have any questions.
Blessings to you all, as ever.