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Amber Stage guidelines for the Diocese of Toronto

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving, go into His courts with praise…”  – Psalm 100:4

After careful deliberation, consultation and prayer, the Diocese of Toronto has determined that on Sunday, September 13, 2020, our parishes and worshipping communities may re-open for public worship by entering into the Amber Stage of the Ecclesiastical Province’s Guidelines “Loving Our Neighbour” through implementing these finalised guidelines. We want to be responsible, careful and reverent in how we return to in-person corporate worship, mindful of the health risks that are still present to us and to our communities.

Before any parish can re-open for public worship, this checklist must be thoroughly reviewed, initialed by the person in the parish responsible for each item or task (cleric, churchwarden and/or designated volunteer), signed and then submitted to both the Regional Dean and the Area Bishop. For those parishes that are ready to open on September 13, these signed checklists must be submitted by Wednesday, September 9, 2020. Parishes that are not yet ready to re-open on September 13 may, in subsequent weeks, submit their signed checklists on any Wednesday prior to reopening on the following Sunday. Parishes are not to re-open until they can comply with the guidelines. Speak to your regional dean and your bishop about how you are providing for the spiritual needs of your parishioners if you are not able to re-open your buildings.

For matters pertaining to employees, tenants/license agreement holders, and Outreach ministries, please refer to the unchanged Red Stage Guidelines that were issued on June 30.  These checklists must be followed but do not need to be submitted to your Regional Dean and/or Area Bishop.

A video will be released next week which will help everyone prepare for the changes that they will experience in returning to church. Feel free to share it widely with your worshippers.

The Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Health “COVID-19 Advice: Religious Services, Rites or Ceremonies” advises the suspension of “sharing or distribution of materials or objects, which may include … communion”. We have spoken to the Ministry and are confident in our protocol for safe distribution of communion in one kind only. Our ecumenical friends who have been using similar protocols for several weeks, and those we have spoken to at the Province and in the City of Toronto, share our confidence. Regardless, no one should feel obliged to make their communion if they do not wish to do so. Clergy who do not wish to offer the sacrament should speak to their bishop.

Lastly, please note that while the provincial government’s allowances permit us to open our buildings for worship at 30% capacity, under Stage 3 of Phase 2 of the Government of Ontario’s re-opening plan, all other indoor gatherings dictate a maximum of 50 people, subject to physical distancing of at least two metres. Masks must be worn by everyone at any indoor gathering. Outdoor gathering limits have a maximum of 100 people, subject to physical distancing. Masks are encouraged when outside in large groups. The Ecclesiastical Province has decided that we will not be serving or sharing refreshments or meals (apart from critical outreach ministries) during our Amber Stage at any gathering.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to be a global public health crisis, and we have a part to play in containing the spread of the disease. Vigilance must be maintained in order to keep transmission rates low. Our care in this matter is truly an act of love toward our neighbour.