Almost half a year has gone by since we’ve been able to physically gather to worship together. In that time, we’ve learned a lot about CoVid-19 and about some of the precautions that help to keep us safer. While there is still a lot to learn, we’ve begun to plan for services to resume this fall. Bishop Susan has said many times that re-opening is infinitely harder than suspending services was! She’s right: there are so many details to consider and so many contingencies that require planning. Everything we do as church will need to be done in new ways.
First and foremost, our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to take every precaution to protect one another. Jesus tells the disciples that he is the Good Shepherd, who cares for his flock. He reminds us that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. We can’t endanger the lives or well-being of others, and so we’ll be taking many new precautions. After all, in baptism we’re asked if we’ll seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbour as ourselves. Respecting the dignity of every human being means doing everything we reasonably can do to protect one another. Everything we do as church will need to be done in new ways.
We’ve made plans for a cautious re-gathering this fall, strictly following guidelines from Public Health and from the Diocese of Niagara adapted for the Church of the Nativity. This letter will share our plans with you; please read it through carefully. You can call and speak to one of the wardens about any questions or concerns you may have. (Phone numbers are printed below.)
Please know that if you don’t feel comfortable coming to services, that’s absolutely okay! God will not be upset about you making the decision to protect your health by staying home. Your parish will continue to stay in touch, continue to keep you updated, and continue to find ways to care for you! It’s important for each of us to make the decisions which are right for each of us as we make our way through this pandemic. Public Health advises that anyone who is in a vulnerable population is encouraged not to worship in person at this time. They define this category as including:
- people aged 70 and over;
- people with compromised immune systems;
- people with underlying medical conditions.
We know that you’ll make an informed decision, and if you’d like to speak with Matthew or one of the wardens as you discern what’s right for you, please be in touch.
Right now, our plan for return is being submitted to the Diocese of Niagara. After it is reviewed and we make any required changes, the archdeacon will approve us resuming services.
We’ll be carefully reviewing the plan regularly, and working to make improvements to allow us to worship together safely and meaningfully. We welcome hearing any suggestions you might offer.
In-person services will depend not just on us being careful with one another, but with the state of the pandemic in Hamilton and throughout Ontario. If there is a ‘second wave’ then our current plans will shift. We’re going to keep you informed, all the way along as the situation evolves.
The next two pages of this letter explain the details of what needs to happen if you want to attend church services in-person. Bishop Susan’s online services will be continuing in the fall for everyone who does not feel comfortable in person.
We’re excited to be able to re-gather in this new way, and look forward to building a safe new normal together! We are currently hoping that our first Sunday services will be held on September 20th.
With prayers and best wishes,
Matthew on behalf of himself, Jan, David, and Doug
So what will be different?
Self-screen before attending church.
Please review the attached Covid-19 Symptom Awareness sheet before leaving your home.
Do not come if you are even a little bit unwell.
ANY symptoms of illness—whether Covid-19, flu, cold, or anything—mean that you need to stay home and get well. Please use the self-screening tool included in this letter before attending.
You’ll need to make a reservation to come to church.
Yes, you read that right: you’ll need to let us know by noon on the Wednesday beforehand if you want to come to church the coming Sunday. We’ll also need to know who in your bubble may be coming. (We’ll need to know by Friday at noon if you plan to come to the next Wednesday midweek service.)
We will schedule which service you can come to, and where you’ll sit.
There are a number of reasons we have to do this for now. Firstly, because of the need to maintain physical-distancing of at least six feet, the number of people who can come to church at one time is much smaller. This means we need to be efficient in how we sit—that’s why we need to know who’s in your bubble! Secondly, because we need to maintain cohorts: the same individuals/families coming to the same service each week minimizes additional contacts and reduces risk. Thirdly, because we need to keep a log of who comes to which services (no, we’re not introducing stars for attendance) to assist Public Health in case there has been some exposure.
Service times are changing, and services will be much shorter.
Right now, we’re planning to have services on Sunday at 8:00 am, 9:30 am, and 11 am, and adding additional services if needed. Each service will be no longer than thirty minutes for the moment; we’re planning for only one reading, a very short reflection, prayers, and the eucharist. There will not be any singing for the time being. Younger folk will need to sit with their families, and there will be no children’s programming at this time.
Arriving to church will be different—and masks must be worn.
We are not going to be using the lower levels of the church building for some time. All entrances and exits from the building will happen from the King Street East doors.
We won’t be able to come into the building earlier than fifteen minutes before a service. Individuals will be admitted and need to answer screening questions from the greeters. Hand sanitizer will be provided, and you’ll be shown where to sit.
Masks covering mouth, nose, and chin must be worn by everyone while in the building. (There will not be any exceptions to this requirement. If you are unable to wear a mask, we will be happy to make arrangements for you to have a visit from a priest.)
We need to act differently with one another.
It’s going to be hard not to offer hugs and handshakes after so long not seeing one another—but we need to maintain good physical distancing at all times. We won’t be leaving our seats to exchange the peace: we’re going to have to get really good at smiling with our eyes! To prevent multiple people touching the same surfaces, no collection plates will be passed during the service; instead, we can make our offerings on the way into or out of the service into the special lockbox built in the shape of a church.
Leaving church will be different.
After the service finishes, the greeters will guide those attending to help everyone to leave efficiently after the service. Between services, we need to clean to prepare for the next service. We will need to move as instructed by the greeters, and we won’t be able to linger or chat with others in the narthex or on the church grounds. Unfortunately, it’ll be a while before we’re able to have coffee hours again.
COVID-19 Symptom Awareness
If you or anyone in your home:
- Have any of the symptoms below
- you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19
- New or worsening cough or shortness of breath
- Chills or Fever (temperature of 37.4° C)
- Sore Throat or Difficulty Swallowing
- Loss of taste or smell
- Unusual headache
- Extreme fatigue
- Nausea/Vomiting, Diarrhea, or Stomach Pain
- Pink eye
- Runny Nose or Congestion
If you are experiencing of any of these symptoms:
- Stay home and self isolate
- Call your Family Doctor or Public Health at (905) 974 – 9848
- Let the church know, if you have been at church in the last fourteen days