Congregations across the diocese are all at different stages and phases of the return to worship protocols. The leadership of every church is eager to embrace new possibilities for new ways of being community during this challenging time.
Here is a snapshot of the situation in the Deanery of Waterloo, as shared by some of the clergy.
Rev. Margaret Walker stated:
“Gently does it” is the best way of describing the church reopening at St George’s New Hamburg and St Columba Waterloo. Since teaming up to share a priest the two parishes have alternated sharing the service over Facebook, both to the other church and making it available to parishioners and others at home. Both churches have opened during the summer for parishioners to be able to either participate in the service or watch on the big screen. Thankfully we have not had to turn anyone away from attending church since we re-opened. Many smiles were seen at a few outdoor services that have enabled folks to gather and see each other in-person. While many people still prefer the safety of their home, particularly with the numbers rising and children returning to school, there is a pent-up need to gather for communion and then for coffee. We are planning to start service of Holy Eucharist in September. Coffee may have to wait a little longer."
Rev Matt Kieswetter offered his reflections on the re-opening of St. Andrews Memorial. He wrote:
"St. Andrews is planning on resuming in person Sunday liturgies on September 12 with a 10 am service continuing to be livestreamed to the internet, with a maximum capacity of 30 people. I expect that parishioners will alternate weeks or, perhaps consider a week day gathering opportunity that I expect I will offer, especially if they are more comfortable in a small group. We had a beautiful outdoor baptism recently, and additional outdoor services are likely to continue between now and the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assissi.
With masks, no singing, and limitations on socializing after the service, the reality is that we are not able to offer the fullsome experience that our warm community has developed and appreciated over the years. Nevertheless, I am pleased that we will be gathering more frequently to give thanks as the people of God in the Eucharist, on behalf of the whole congregation and indeed the world. May I also say, that many people continue to appreciate compline and bible study over Zoom."
Rev. Marty Levecque, rector at All Saints' in Waterloo offered the following thoughts on the re-opening:
"A year like no other. That is what we said last year as we prepared to re-open after being shut down for the summer. This year, much like last year, will be a year that looks very different from previous years. The difference being we have learned much about the virus, how to protect outselves and each other, and have been blessed with vaccines produced in record time. So while this year will not look like previous years, we are eagerly anticipating being able to hold programs, small groups, and most importantly in person worship. At All Saints' we are eager to get back to serving God, serving God's people and being a light on the hill for lakeshore north and south, and indeed all of Waterloo, where we put into practice, all are saints, all are welcome, all are loved."
Rev. Dr Stephen Hendry writes: "It has been my experience that the congregation of St George’s of Forest Hill has been extraordinarily flexible in adapting to constant changes in the processes and protocols for Covid. We have returned to live worship services based on the restrictions that are in place from the Diocese. We are also heavily dependent on the Livestream services, both Wednesdays and Sundays. Most people have been very cooperative about wearing masks and washing their hands. Everyone understands that we need to maintain 6 feet of distance while sitting in the pews. The most challenging aspect of Covid has been that this community are a loving and supportive group of people and therefore not being able to attend funerals and have an opportunity to publicly grieve the loss of people that they have known for 20 or 30 years, has caused a “suspended grief” that still needs to be addressed. I commend the leadership of this parish for their patience, diligence and commitment to keeping this community healthy in these difficult times."
Prepared by Rev. Dr. Stephen Hendry, St. George's of Forest Hill, Kitchener
(Photo: And now, back to our church buildings: In-person services resumed on September 12. One of the last outdoor gatherings was the Sacrament of Baptism in the Deanery of Saugeens: Bishop Todd Townshend and Rev. Grayhame Bowcott, Georgian Bay (Lake Huron), July 11, 2021)