December 21, 2020
Today the Premier of Ontario announced that in order to bring the transmission of COVID-19 under better control, the province will enter the Grey Stage (Lockdown) of the COVID-19 response framework on December 26. As we have stated from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will always willingly abide by the guidance and direction placed upon us by government and health authorities as we exercise an “abundance of caution” in protecting all those we serve and minister. The message from the medical briefing made it clear that the earlier the work starts, the lower the case numbers will be. After careful consideration, the decision has been made to move to closure in the Diocese of Ontario earlier than the provincial direction (which is balancing health and commercial considerations).
Effective at 12:01 am on December 24, 2020, all permissions to re-open for in-person worship granted under the Amber Stage are suspended until further notice. The following guidelines (similar to the Red Stage apply):
1. Until further notice, all church buildings are to be closed for all purposes, except for the recording of online worship, sermons or reflections (see the guideline).
2. Hall use and rentals are suspended. This includes 12-step groups.
3. Ministry essential services to those who are food insecure can continue with takeout only and precautions already in place. All other in-building ministries and services must be suspended at this time.
4. Limited access is permitted for volunteers or contractors to inspect or provide essential maintenance.
1. Other than recording of online worship, in-person worship is not permitted. Each church’s leadership (clerical and lay) should continue to discern and develop how best to minister to their congregation during this time.
2. For online worship recording sessions:
- No more than five (5) persons may be present at any one time in the building when recording or live-streaming a service. This includes any person running the AV equipment. All persons must always remain a minimum of six feet (approx. 2m) apart. If there are singers, a greater physical distance from each singer to other people is necessary (at least 12 feet). All present (including singers) must wear masks. With no congregation present, multiple singers may sing at the same time. For those who record in segments such that it may appear that more than five persons are present at once, it may be wise to state such in the credits.
- All areas of the building used in recording must be cleaned and disinfected after each session or service.
3. All weddings, funerals, and baptisms (including graveside interments) are to be postponed until further notice. Where there is an exigent emergency and postponement is not possible, permission may be sought from the bishop. Where permission is granted, such services are to be held in private with no more than 5 people in total (including the clergy), attending with all precautions (pre-assessment, masks, distancing, hand sanitizing, facility sanitizing, contact tracing).
1. Where at all possible, pastoral care should primarily be done by remote means (phone, video calls, etc). In person pastoral care should occur where it is an emergency or essential.
2. Any essential visitation to a long-term care facility or hospital must be governed by the institution’s regulations. It is recommended to go directly home following and immediately wash clothes worn during the visit in hot water.
3. Pastoral visits where individuals are self-isolating, quarantined or where there is an active case of COVID-19 are not permitted.
4. Anointing and/or a last Eucharist to the dying are permitted. All protocols from the Amber Stage Eucharist guidelines must be followed, including masks, distancing, and sanitizing.
Formation, Fellowship and Stewardship
1. Formation activities such as Bible or book studies, prayer groups, confirmation classes, children and youth activities may continue on-line.
2. Fellowship may continue through virtual coffee hours, using phone trees, video, and other methods to ensure that each member of the parish is regularly contacted by others.
3. Continual stewardship activities are recommended to assist parishioners in maintaining their offerings. Particular attention should be paid to encouraging parishioners who are not already on Pre-Authorized Giving (PAG) plans to sign up.
All directives of local public health authorities and the government of Ontario must be followed at all times.
We make these decisions with sadness, particularly given that this will impact our public celebrations marking the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. But we continue to be a people of hope. These steps are being taken to contain this disease, to help and protect each other. The availability of vaccines now signals our world entering a new phase in the battle against the virus. We will celebrate Christmas differently this year both as a church and as individuals/families. We pray God’s abundant blessings on us all as we celebrate the Incarnation.
Bishop Michael Oulton
Diocesan Executive Officer
Chief Financial Officer
Ven. Wayne Varley
Archdeacon for Ministry and Program