On May 26, I sent out a diocesan-wide Pastoral Letter in response to the unveiling of the Provincial Government’s B.C.’s Restart: A Plan to Bring us Back Together. In that plan we heard about the four-step gradual opening so that by September 7 we should be back to many more freedoms (if all goes according to plan).
In that provincial plan, there were no immediate changes offered for indoor/onsite worship in the province. The response in my pastoral letter aligned with that, so that indoor/onsite worship could begin on June 15 (at the earliest). But effective May 27, Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer (PHO) has offered a variance of this plan which allows indoor worship (with all COVID protocols in place, such as, masks, distancing, health check, hand sanitizing, contact tracing, etc).
From the variance sent out May 27:
The maximum number of people who may attend is 50 people.This number is inclusive of worship leaders, readers, soloists, musicians, volunteers and the like.
Along with this, it must be noted that: There must not be a choir at a worship service, but a soloist may sing at a worship service. A soloist must wear a face covering during a worship service, but may remove the face covering while singing, if there is
a) a three metre separation between the soloist and the other participants, or
b) physical barrier between the soloist and the other participants which blocks the transmission of droplets.
To align with the PHO’s changes, I am now offering a variance to the Pastoral Letter I sent out on May 26. I am NOT giving permission for indoor onsite worship for this Sunday, May 30. If your parish (or other worshipping community) wishes to offer indoor/onsite worship between May 31 and June 15, you must apply to me (or another member of the COVID Safety Team: the Reverends Tellison Glover or Philippa Segrave-Pride). After consulting with this group, I will consider offering permission for inside/onsite worship for your parish during these 15 days. You must offer a compelling case for this to take place prior to June 15. Please note that for baptisms, weddings, and funerals prior to June 15 the maximum number in attendance is to be 10.
Please do not feel that your parish (or other worshipping community) must rush into offering indoor/onsite worship. I urge you simply to begin planning for in-person worship, but the exact timing will be determined by the leadership in each parish. Each parish will find their own timing on this, as there will be hesitancy for people to come back to the church building and how to lead safe and effective indoor/onsite worship.