The College of Bishops has been prayerfully considering the unprecedented infection levels of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant currently affecting our province. As of Monday, January 10, 2022, the Diocese of Toronto will return to modified Red Stage Guidelines until the end of January. This means that our church buildings are closed to the public and accessed solely for the purposes of live streaming or recording services of worship from Jan. 10-31. We strongly recommend that congregations stop worshipping in person immediately, but if you feel unable to change your plans before Sunday, we advise you to proceed as safely as possible before closing your doors on Monday.
Only those people fully vaccinated for leadership in our Church may be present to offer liturgical and musical leadership or technical support. No in-person congregation of any size will gather. Our modified guidelines don’t specify a numerical limit of people present, but we ask that only those with defined roles attend. All people present in the space for recording and live streaming must be masked and distanced, even for the purposes of filming. On Jan. 31, the College of Bishops will announce next steps for February.
Monday’s announcement from the Premier’s Office stated that the Province of Ontario is temporarily returning to a modified step two of its Roadmap to Reopen. The part of the announcement that pertains to our churches set a capacity limit of 50% for services, including weddings and funerals, and did not affect our existing Amber Stage Guidelines. However, we’re conscious of the difficult decisions that clergy and lay leaders have struggled to make in providing in-person or online worship, and we know of the high level of anxiety being managed in our parishes. We believe we are called to make sacrificial decisions for the sake and safety of our whole society in order to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, and to support our brave and exhausted healthcare and front-line workers.
We know that many of our parishes had already chosen to voluntarily close for in-person worship, returning exclusively to online gatherings. We also know that some parishes had been carefully worshipping in person, as safely as possible. Like the government, we hope that these renewed restrictions will be time-limited and that we can carefully return to in-person worship as soon as possible.
The Season of Epiphany shines forth with the manifestation of Christ’s glory among us, despite the constant changes and challenges of our present time. May this new year be an opportunity to demonstrate patience, fortitude and care as we move into the future, confident in God’s mercy.
The Bishop’s Office