On March 10, Dr. Bonnie Henry removed more restrictions related to living with this ongoing pandemic. Clearly there has been a shift to fewer mandated directives as we move to a different phase of response to COVID-19. Some are celebrating this, and some have become more anxious. Throughout our diocese this range will also be seen. In response to these changes from the PHO there will also be some changes in the protocols within our diocese, therefore I ask that you read them carefully and determine the best steps forward for your parish or other place of ministry and plan accordingly.
Once again, my sincerest gratitude to all of you for your efforts during the last two years as you diligently worked to keep people safe but continued to offer opportunities to gather as a worshipping community. Thank-you for your dedication during these unprecedented times. God has walked with us throughout this pandemic, but when we are not able to worship in person, the Holy Spirit can feel distant from us. I thank God and the work of many people that we have been able to hold firm in these times with vaccinations, wearing masks, distancing, and washing our hands. All of this and several other endeavours have brought us to this time of changing the protocols.
Please note that it will be important for all parishes and worshipping communities to determine the best ways to phase in these changes. It will be important to communicate clearly to your parishioners as to when and how you plan to do this. You may start immediately or decide to wait until after April 8, or possibly later.
For events aside from worship, face coverings do not have to be worn, but the restrictions related to proof of vaccination (for those eligible to be vaccinated) are still in place until April 8 (unless this date is changed by the PHO). April 8 is the Friday before Holy Week.
On April 8 (unless the PHO mandates otherwise) there will also be changes to the protocols in our diocese related to gatherings, Communion in both kinds and sharing the peace in ways which were customary prior to March of 2020.
Rental groups using space in parish buildings must follow the PHO protocols: no masks are required but proof of vaccination must be shown until April 8 (unless it is worship). The parish leadership is not responsible for ensuring compliance but must receive confirmation that the rental group will be complying.
I understand all of this brings about a great shift, once again, to the practices in each parish and worshipping community. It will be very important to plan, prepare, and communicate very carefully these changes. Give an allowance for good change management and collaboration to reach the end goals. Each parish will probably move at their own pace on this, but I encourage all to keep moving forward to reduce the pandemic protocols in place.
Soon I will be working to develop a Diocesan Communicable Disease Protocol so that if the need arises we can move into this protocol quickly and easily.
I am so grateful that we are now in this place that some restrictions are being lifted and that more will be lifted in the early part of April. I thank God for the new advancements in science that helped bring this about, but also for the care and concern of all health care workers and the people of this diocese who have worked so hard to protect all people. I know that this will be difficult for some, pastoral care and consideration will be very important as we move to incorporate these changes. Thank you so very much for your care and attention to how you do this in your parish or other worshipping community.
Holy One, this pandemic has been a terrible weight on our shoulders as we have seen loved ones become ill and some have even died as a result of this virus. This has been a time of loneliness and fear; not knowing what the future might bring to each of us and our loved ones. We pray for all who still live in fear, the immunocompromised in particular, that they will be protected and that their fears might be alleviated. We pray for this province and this country that as we move into a lessening of restrictions we might grow together in community and compassion for one another. We pray for all the people of this diocese, that they may know your loving care and eternal presence blessing them each and every day. We pray too for the people of Ukraine that war may end and peace might reign. In this time of Lent, fill us with the courage and love of Jesus, that this world might be transformed by your love and grace. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.