I am writing today further to my communication regarding precautions to be taken over concerns around the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The World Health Organization has declared a pandemic and governments around the world are implementing their pandemic plans and setting aside resources to ensure that the spread of the virus is contained.
We also have our part to play in mitigating the spread of this disease and to that end I am issuing the following directives to be observed in the Diocese of Ontario until the situation is resolved. Please note that the best information indicates that the risk of transmission remains low in our area and my prayer is that it remains so. Even so, we need to be especially cognizant of the advice of the World Health Organization that if such a situation changes, it does so rapidly.
In addition to my previous communication to the diocese, I am now directing that the use of the common cup be discontinued until further notice. Priests will continue to consecrate in both kinds and consume the wine at the ablutions as per usual.
The passing of the offering plate will be suspended. Provision should be made for offerings to be received prior to worship commencing and then presented at the offertory as per usual.
It is a central aspect of our faith that we gather for common worship, prayer and mutual support as members of the Body of Christ. While we have not taken the step of suspending public gatherings, I would encourage clergy, parishes and congregations to consider ways in which those who choose not to attend worship might still have the benefit of participating in worship through the use of live streaming, video recording, Facebook live, etc.
Diocesan Committees and groups who wish to meet may also have the option of virtual meetings over Zoom, Go to Meeting, etc and diocesan staff will he happy to assist in setting up those platforms.
Pastoral Care teams and clergy who make home and hospital visits should be cognizant of and honour the policies of the institutions they visit. The bread of the Eucharist should be shared from the reserved sacrament and under no circumstances is any remaining bread to be returned for continued reservation. Anointing with oil should only be undertaken in situations where proper hygiene can be observed including hand washing or use of hand sanitizer before and after administration of the oil.
The Diocesan Influenza Pandemic Plan is now up on the website and you can make reference to it for the various, practical, liturgical and pastoral information contained within it, including links to other outside resources that may be of assistance to parish leadership.
Please be assured of my prayers as you faithfully respond to this unfolding situation. Please continue to hold in prayer all those who have been affected by COVID-19, their families, caregivers and front line health workers and especially those in research and development who are working toward synthesizing an effective vaccine.
We have a critical role to play at this time within the life of our communities to respond in love, to mitigate unreasonable fear including the sad reality of prejudice and racism and to be responsible members of our wider society. We also have a duty to ensure that the most vulnerable within our communities are supported and protected.
We will continue to review the situation daily and be in touch should further directives become necessary. Should you have any questions of clarification, please do not hesitate to contact the diocesan office 613-544-4774.