Dear Friends,I am writing as a follow up to my letter of March 13th and the decision to suspend public worship in response to the COVID-19 situation. A number of questions have arisen since then and while the bishops will convene on a conference call on Monday to deal with these questions and to formulate a common response for the province, I want to address some of your questions in the mean time.
We all certainly hope that these provisions will be of short duration and that the proactive measures taken across the breadth of civil society will assist in preventing an escalation of infection in our province. I know how difficult this is, but as the church we are still called together even when circumstances inhibit our physical gatherings. We are joined by the Spirit of the Living God into one body and I am certain your prayers are keen and heartfelt over these days as we continue to address the present circumstance.
I am aware that those of you with vital outreach ministries to vulnerable people are faced with particular challenges in that these programs are a life line to the people they serve. I would encourage your teams to discuss strategies for this time and make reference to the Provincial Department of Heath Guidelines in determining the best way forward. Dr Laurel Dempsey, our diocesan physician, has agreed to be available for any questions you may have as you sort out those strategies. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am pleased that possibilities for online worship are being considered including at Christ Church Cataraqui and the Cathedral for those who wish to join in worship via livestream on Sunday. There are also resources being placed on the website of the Ecclesiastical Province. If you too wish to offer a ‘virtual’ service, it is relatively easy to do so. Tips are provided here.
Please keep the number of people gathered together for your virtual service to an absolute minimum – clergy and only a very few others: the camera operator, a reader or server if needed, a minimum number of musicians – with no congregation of any size. Practice good physical distancing or healthy space in the church and keep those few people that you do have spread out in the space.
Apart from the purposes of live streaming, this is also the way that priests may consecrate the sacrament in order to provide home and hospital communions (in one kind), as needed.
If you would like to open your space for a time to allow the faithful to enter and offer private devotions, this is permissible, but please allow a long enough window that you are not seen to be actively assembling a congregation. Please post signs that encourage physical distancing and keep your worship space scrupulously clean.
The key principle to follow is: NO CONGREGATION IS TO BE ASSEMBLED, OF ANY SIZE, AT ANY TIME.
Think “bare minimum” in all things and err on the side of caution. Although it is antithetical to what Church is all about, our goal at this time must be to gather as few people as possible. If you are offering a livestream, video broadcast, podcast or other resource that can be shared, do let us know! We have set up a listing on our website for the whole Diocese to access.
Some of you have funerals and weddings already scheduled. Ideally, these would be postponed at this time, or kept as private events for family only. Please keep the congregation as small as possible. (The Ministry of Health maximum gathering number, currently at 250, may change at any time and must be strictly adhered to.) The celebration of the Eucharist at this time should be discouraged and if it does take place only in one kind as per my previous instructions. There is to be no reception at the church. Going forward all necessary funerals ought to be private until further notice, using these same guidelines.
Please be assured of my continued prayers as we move through this challenging time. Further updates will be posted as needed and certainly after the bishop’s conference call on Monday. May the Spirit of the Living God continue to uphold, guide and direct our decisions.