Yesterday’s announcement from the Government of Ontario requires the Province – and therefore the Diocese of Toronto in its entirety – to abide by a “stay-at-home” order. This is to address the shocking rise in COVID-19 cases, and the worrisome modelling that shows transmission and infection numbers trending in the wrong direction. As a Church, we are committed to doing our part to support efforts to contain and combat this insidious disease and the spread of the pandemic.
Under the “stay-at-home” order, people are only to leave their residences for the most necessary reasons. One of the exceptions to staying-at-home is “(24) Attending a gathering for the purpose of a wedding, a funeral or a religious service, rite or ceremony that is permitted by law or making necessary arrangements for the purpose of such a gathering.”
Under the White Zone / Shutdown stipulations, that means that churches may open at a 15% capacity for worship, with social distancing. All of our Guidelines remain in effect for those churches who choose to open at a 15% capacity.
Despite the Government’s permission for parishes to remain open at a 15% capacity, the College of Bishops urges every parish to prayerfully consider whether it is the right decision for them to do so. It is the bishops’ strong recommendation that every parish prioritize their online and virtual worship offerings, and reduce as much as possible the number of participants gathered to produce them. During this new lockdown period, in solidarity with society at large and in order to encourage safety and loving care of our neighbours, it is our hope that we as Christians can model responsible and sacrificial restraint as we continue to journey through this difficult time.
The Bishop’s Office