As we arrive at the two-year mark since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, it is with gratitude and cautious optimism that we continue to relax more of the restrictions that have been in place in the Diocese of Toronto to help us care for each other and our neighbours during the worst of the pandemic.
Society generally, and our Church particularly, is learning to live with Covid in a new way, but we are aware that not everyone feels similarly. Some parishes, clergy and parishioners are eager to open up fully, while some other parishes, clergy and parishioners are feeling more cautious and would prefer to wait longer to lift restrictions. Everyone’s understanding of “personal space” has changed over the past two years, and our comfort levels regarding physical proximity and physical contact may vary. We will need to ask permission before assuming people’s sense of ease with handshakes or hugs. Even with increased capacity, we want to avoid crowding, for reasons of both safety and comfort. Please encourage people to maintain respectful distances when gathering in groups.
In revising the diocesan guidelines and recommended practices:
- No person is required or expected to act in a manner that feels unsafe or unwise to them. All of the revisions from the Amber Guidelines to these Spring Guidelines are optional and should not be enacted unless the community is comfortable doing so.
- All laws for the Province of Ontario must be strictly adhered to, including the wearing of masks indoors.
- The Diocese of Toronto will revert immediately to any protocols imposed by government and health authorities should restrictions be re-applied.
- Ventilation is key. Maximize air flow and access fresh air wherever possible. As the weather improves, open doors and windows as much as possible.
- Please note that our Outreach Ministry Guidelines have not
Effective immediately, and only when parishes feel ready to proceed, our parish guidelines have been amended as follows:
Contact Tracing & Screening:
- Contact tracing no longer needs to be taken. (Previously collected contract tracing information continues to be securely retained for a three-year period.)
- Our screening questions are available on the COVID-19 Updates page. While it is recommended that worshippers be screened verbally at the door, adequately posted signage is sufficient for services. Clergy, staff, employees and volunteers should be actively screened before working, however.
- Masks continue to be mandatory inside our buildings. Hand sanitizer must be provided.
- Reduced capacity limits have now been lifted for the Province of Ontario, including inside our churches.
- Choirs and chancel parties may return to full capacity. Multiple sacred ministers may take their places at the altar.
- All worshippers may be admitted and seated where they are most comfortable.
- Sidespersons/ushers are to ask about worshippers’ preferences for being seated and make provision for those who would like increased personal space.
- Masks continue to be mandatory in our buildings.
- One speaker at a time may unmask for the purposes of liturgical speaking (reading, preaching, spoken intercessions) if able to maintain a distance of 4 metres from all others.
- Those making sacred vows (e.g., baptismal, confirmation or ordination candidates, wedding couples) may remove their masks to speak their promises if maintaining a distance of 4 metres from others outside their own family. Officiating clergy should be masked while others are unmasked.
- All singers must be masked at all times.
Hospitality (Food and Drink):
- Ventilation is key. Maximize air flow and access fresh air wherever possible. As the weather improves, open doors and windows.
- The following “restaurant rules” apply for the serving and sharing of food and drinks.
- All persons must be masked at all times, except when seated to eat or drink.
- As masks will be removed, seating should be spread out as much as possible.
- Food must be prepared, portioned and served by designated, masked and vaccinated volunteers.
- There is to be no physical gathering around the food – e.g., no buffets, potlucks, coffee stations, salad bars, pizza boxes – and no one should be “helping themselves.”
- Based on these “restaurant rules,” there can be no informal, stand-up coffee hours at this time.
- We hope to allow for more informal sharing of food and beverages, possibly outside, in the Easter Season.
Communion in Both Kinds:
- We are hoping to return to the practice of sharing the common cup by Easter.
- We will be sharing more information about this in due course.
When you are ready to enact these changes in your parish, please have your new signing officers submit an updated checklist to your Regional Dean before proceeding.
This Lent, may our worship and our life together continue to be an offering of love, Christ’s hands and feet to a hurting and broken world.
The Bishop’s Office