I am pleased to commend the document “Loving our Neighbours: A Template for the Safe Re-opening of Our Church Buildings” for your consideration. It provides a three staged reopening framework, the first of which is the “Red Stage”, which we shall enter as of Monday, June 29. The detailed directions and checklist are also attached for your review and implementation as we begin to move into the Red Stage.
Since our Church buildings went into lockdown on March 15, we have waited patiently for the time when we can begin the careful work of resuming worship together. Along with you, I deeply miss the ability to worship, work and enjoy fellowship, together with all the other activities which are so much a part of our common life as Anglican Christians. Words seem so inadequate to express the depth of my appreciation to our clerical and lay leaders across the diocese for the creative and faithful ways in which they have provided leadership through these challenging times. I also want to express my gratitude to all members of our diocese for your prayerful, pastoral and financial support over these past months. One last note of thanks goes to our diocesan staff and volunteers who have done yeomans work to chart the way forward until now.
The Provincial House of Bishops, Executive Officers and Chancellors have taken regular counsel throughout the pandemic, consulting with experts in the field of public health and epidemiology, to obtain the best possible advice and consider the steps we need to take to ensure the safety of the people whom we serve. It has been a long road but, God willing, we are at the point to begin discovering our “new normal” until a vaccine puts the last nail in the coffin of COVID-19.
Closing our buildings on March 15 was a difficult decision but one that simply involved closing down. Re-opening safely will involve a planned and carefully implemented strategy. We will continue to monitor events as they unfold and will adjust direction as the situation warrants and public health priorities dictate. I would encourage you to hold us all in your prayers along with people around the world who continue to combat this stubborn and dangerous virus. Remember especially those for whom this time has exacerbated loneliness and grief, especially the elderly, infirmed and those grieving the loss of loved ones.
A regular refrain through these weeks has been the call that we will “get through this together.” These are true words and for followers of Jesus Christ, we can add the phrase “in the Power of the Spirit.” May that Spirit be your comfort and light as we continue forward.
Ministry, pastoral care, worship guidelines and guidelines for the safe reopening of Diocese of Ontario church buildings
Diocese of Ontario RED STAGE guidelines version 1.0
Bishop Michael Oulton