The Ontario government announced yesterday a return to a modified Step 2 of the Reopening Ontario protocols beginning at 12:01am on Wednesday, January 5th until at least January 26th. Capacity at indoor weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites and ceremonies is limited to 50 per cent capacity of the particular room.
Our diocesan protocols further state that the maximum attendance per service is the fewer of the number of persons who can be seated with a 6ft (2m) distance from all other persons not of their own household (or, in the case of single persons, the bubble to which they belong) or 50% of the capacity of the room. Outdoor services are limited to the number of people that can maintain 2 meters of physical distance.
The majority of the parishes in the diocese are now worshipping on-line. Others continue to worship in-person. We are grateful for the careful discernment that the leadership of each parish has made in reaching these decisions. For those continuing to worship in-person, please continue to carefully follow the diocesan COVID-19 protocols which can be found here. You may wish to further reduce the amount of singing in a service and/or the maximum number of persons attending. Please continue to keep services to 45minutes or less in length.
Whether services are in-person or virtual, parish leaders will want to have contingency plans in place should the incumbent need to isolate for any reason. This may include honorary assistants or Licensed Lay Readers taking services---in-person or on-line---or directing parishioners to an on-line service. This service may be one within their deanery, or parishioners may be directed to St. Paul’s Cathedral Sunday service which is live-streamed at 10am here. While the government has decreased the required length of isolation following exposure to COVID-19 to five days, we ask that all parish leaders who are exposed to or positive for COVID-19 self-isolate for 7-10 days before re-engaging in in-person pastoral care or worship.
So often throughout this pandemic, it has felt like we start to move again toward ‘normal’ life and are pulled back into tighter restrictions and protocols. This is for us all a continuing source of frustration and grief. In this Christmas-tide, may we be reminded that the God-incarnate entered our world to bring us hope even, perhaps especially, in the times of darkness.
The Venerable Tanya Phibbs
Archdeacon of Huron