These continue to be difficult and stressful times for all of us as we live through this pandemic. Please know how grateful I am for your hard work in providing online worship, weekly parish events, and the many different ways that you support your community. You are an inspiration to me and please know my prayers continue to be with you.
You may know that Dr. Bonnie Henry changed the Health Order for the Province of British Columbia to allow for in-person outdoor worship. She placed a number of restrictions on this, here are some of them:
This is effective immediately. I give my consent to allow the churches and other worshipping communities of the Diocese to hold outdoor in-person worship services. They must follow all of the protocols as outlined above (and others as outlined by the PHO) and submit their plan to the COVID Safety Group,(myself; Philippa Segrave; Tellison Glover) for approval (some parishes have already done this). These can be Communion Services where only the bread/wafer (the Body of Christ) is offered to individuals of the congregation. The protocols related to outdoor Communion are the same as those required for Phase Three of each parish’s plan for reopening from last Fall. Weddings, funerals and baptisms that take place outside are subject to these same protocols (50 people maximum, no congregational singing, COVID protocols, etc).
Indoor worship is not possible at this time and I do NOT give my consent to hold indoor in-person worship at this time. I will not give my consent to hold indoor in-person worship until after April 11 and possibly longer. To be clear, this includes Holy Week and Easter Day and the Sunday after Easter. Even if the Provincial Health Officer gives her consent to allow in-person indoor worship to take place, we have passed the date where we can provide careful planning for this at Easter.
Parishes and other places of worship are strongly encouraged to continue to offer online worship (Zoom, livestream, etc) for the rest of Lent and for Holy Week and Easter. These can be services of the Word or Eucharist. A maximum of 10 people can be in the building to help create online worship. A maximum of four singers will be the rule for these online liturgies (they must be spaced 5 metres apart and 5 metres from anyone else in the building). And also, please remember that the Reserved Sacrament can be brought to individual parishioners or individual parishioners can come to the church to receive the Reserved Sacrament (please submit your plans to the COVID Safety Group if you are planning this) following the online service or during the week.
I know how stressful all of this is for clergy and lay leaders to try to adapt and change as needed. I hope that this letter gives you clarity and understanding as to how we will be proceeding in the Diocese of New Westminster until at least April 12.
Thank you for your ministry and pastoral care of all those connected to your parish (or place of worship) and the surrounding community. May your Holy Week and Easter pilgrimage strengthen and encourage your faith and hope in the risen Christ.
O God of grace, continue to bless all those who seek a closer relationship with you. Fill our hearts and minds with the presence of your Holy Spirit. Inspire us to be changed by the Easter Gospel, changed to reflect your new light shining in this world. May we know that our worship of you, outside, online, and in our own prayers, draws us closer to the knowledge of your love showered upon our lives and our souls. We continue to pray for all those severely affected by this pandemic, may they know your peace. In the name of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen one, we pray. Amen.