Tag Archives: Covid Update

What Do Worship Services Look Like Now?

Bishop Susan has issued new guidelines for our ministry and worship—the biggest shifts since we resumed worshipping in person! These guidelines are carefully based on the best science and public health evidence available, and both we as the Church of the Nativity and the whole Diocese of Niagara continue to have everyone’s safety as our first priority.

We wanted to make sure you’d know what to expect for services.

Mask Mandate Paused

The requirement to wear masks has been paused. (It may return if we see increased positivity with a new wave of the COVID virus or variants of concern.)

While you don’t have to wear a mask to come to church, we do encourage you to wear one if it’s right for you!

Masks will be worn by all communion ministers while communion is shared.

Communion: Common Cup Returns as an Option

The chalice is shared at communion, pre-pandemic

We’ll be removing the table in front of the steps where we’ve been sharing communion since the return to in-person worship. All will be welcome to come to the altar rails to receive the eucharist—and the clergy will still be delighted to bring the sacrament to anyone who isn’t able to come up!

Because masks are not required, we do ask that you leave more space between you and others at the altar rails than you may remember doing before the pandemic. Please remember to use hand sanitizer before coming forward.

You’ll also be able to receive the wine from the chalice if you so choose. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve reminded you of the Church’s long-held teaching that receiving in only one kind is full participation in the eucharist—that is, receiving the bread alone is receiving Christ’s body and blood. That hasn’t changed, and if you don’t feel comfortable receiving the wine at this time, then that’s the right call for you! Simply cross your arms over your chest, and the chalice bearer will hold the chalice in front of you, will say “the blood of Christ,” and then move to the next person.

If you’re finding yourself wondering—wait, why is the common cup considered safe?—know you’re not alone. We encourage you to read the Reverend Michael Garner (MSc, MDiv)’s paper “The Common Cup and SARS-CoV-2 Infection Risk.” Michael is a priest and a former long-serving infectious disease epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency of Canada. This paper offers a careful scientific overview of the studies that have been done on the common cup over many years, and why any risk of exposure to Covid is ‘extremely low.’

Exchanging the Peace

A peace sign made by fingers in front of tree branches.

We will be able to physically exchange the peace again.

Please remember that everyone will have different comfort levels when we come to the peace!

It will be important for us to see and assess other people’s body language and choices; it’ll be important for us to use our words to explain what we’re comfortable with. If you’re not ready for a handshake, making a peace sign (a ‘V’ with your first two fingers) or bowing are two ways to signal your preferred option to other people.

Make the choice that’s right for you; honour the choices made by other people. For the next while, the clergy will be reminding the congregation about this when we come to the peace.

Outdoor Coffee Hours (weather-permitting)

People gather in the Nativity Gardens at a recent outdoor coffee hour

Parish Council made the decision that we’ll have summer coffee hours in the Nativity Gardens! With juice and light snacks, we’ll have the chance to socialize and regather in this beautiful setting!

Live-Streamed Services Will Continue

The video control board for streaming, at the back of the church

We’re going to continue to broadcast the main service each Sunday to YouTube. You can find a link to the stream on our parish blog each week, along with a link to the order of service to make it easier to join in the hymns and prayers and readings. There are also special prayers you might wish to use to make an act of spiritual communion.

Get in touch!

Close-up of an old dial-pad on a touchtone phone.

Need to have a conversation with your priest? While Matthew will be taking his vacation at a couple of different points over the summer, nothing makes him happier than catching up or walking alongside you through a time when you need pastoral support. Just pick up the phone and call the church!

Image Credits:

“Green Light” by Dave Levy on flickr; used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
“Communion” by William Pleydon; used with permission.
“Peace” by Cristina Souza on flickr; used under CC BY 2.0 license.
“Coffee Hour” by William Pleydon; used with permission.
“Telephone” by Indiana Public Media (WFIU) on flickr; used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

In-Person Services Paused, Christmas Update

With the increase in the spread of COVID-19 in Hamilton, the diocese has paused all in-person services in the City of Hamilton until further notice. This decision has been made before any potential changes to our community rules from the province. I wanted to share and highlight an excerpt from the diocesan note explaining the new ministry guidelines:

While we have continued confidence in our pandemic protocols, this decision is being made as a sacrificial witness to the wider community that now is a time to stay at home for the love of our neighbours and in order to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

Christmas services were already going to look very different from previous years–not being able to sing familiar carols together, with limited and spread-out attendance; now, things shift entirely online.

Here’s what things will look like over the next while:

No in-person visiting will be scheduled at this time. For pastoral contact, please call the church and Matthew will return your call. The church’s phone number is (905) 549-4335.

Planning for Resuming Services

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

Praying At Home

  • Home Prayers During a Time of Pandemic:
    these prayers were put together by the Diocese of Niagara’s liturgical officer. They’re simple and easy to follow. They also include a bunch of optional prayers specifically for healing and calming anxiety.
  • Forward Day by Day:
    Produced by the Forward Movement–an organization of the Episcopal Church of the United States–this great daily resource offers a short scriptural passage, a reflection on that passage, and some questions worth pondering in prayer.
  • Daily Prayer:
    The Church has a long tradition of praying at specific times of the day. Our Book of Alternative Services and Book of Common Prayer both have ways of praying in the morning, at midday, in the evening, and before bed. The easiest way to start praying what’s called the Daily Office is using a web page from the Forward Movement that provides the current prayer office based on what time it is right now!
  • Home Prayers:
    If you have a copy of the Book of Alternative Services at home with you, check out pages 685–95. This section is called Home Prayers, and it offers a pattern of prayer that’s easily adaptable. Right now, you might want to use the gathering for Lent on page 688. (If you don’t have a BAS at home, you can look at it online.)