On Monday, March 21, the provincial government lifted mask mandates for most indoor settings in Ontario. Those places with vulnerable populations, however, such as long-term care homes, health-care settings, shelters and public transit, continue to require masks until April 27. Our Sunday gatherings for worship have many of the same risk factors as those settings that continue to carry a mask mandate, and all of us are anxious to see if March Break and the ongoing reality of the Omicron variant will make an impact on our COVID-19 hospitalizations.
For these reasons, the Spring Guidelines will remain in place until April 27. Masks will continue to be mandatory for worship until then. As stipulated in our Spring Guidelines, during worship one person at a time may unmask for the purposes of liturgical speaking, e.g., preaching, reading or spoken intercessions. Masks may be removed for eating and drinking using “restaurant rules.” Parish employees, staff and volunteers may now remove their masks indoors when working at a distance from others; our Spring Guidelines have been updated to reflect this new change. Licensees and tenants in our buildings are subject to their own rules according to governmental policy.
With faith and trust, and in deep thanksgiving, we announce today that the Diocese of Toronto will move to Green Stage – the removal of all COVID-19 restrictions, except the vaccine policy for staff and volunteers – as of April 27. On that date, across the Diocese, the wearing of masks becomes optional, all parishes may resume the informal sharing of food and drinks (e.g., coffee hours) and may once again offer the Common Cup in the Eucharist. Those parishes that are not ready to move to Green Stage by May 1 should speak to their bishop.
For those parishes that are eager and ready to do so, the College of Bishops is permitting an early move to Green Stage on April 16. Please inform your Regional Dean if you are moving to Green Stage for Easter.
We anticipate that these changes may be anxiety-producing for some. Parishes and individuals may prefer to take a staged, or phased, approach when moving to Green. For example, a parish may choose to become mask-optional before adding a coffee hour or offering the Common Cup. Some people may choose to continue wearing a mask, or make their communion in one kind only, for some time to come. We also know that some of our adaptations of the past two years, particularly around online worship, are here to stay.
Over the coming weeks, as we become used to new ways of being and acting, our comfort levels will adapt and change. In this time, as Church, we are called to model our values as the corporate Body of Christ: being patient with each other and our feelings, and supporting one another to the best of our abilities. We are able to do all these things through our faith in the Risen Christ, the One who has faithfully accompanied us these past two years of pandemic to this new place of care and understanding.
Thanks be to God who has brought us safely to this point in time.
The Bishop’s Office