Re-opening, and Possibly Re-closing, Presbyterian Churches

by Fred Stewart, General Presbyter with the Presbytery of West Toronto

I have had the opportunity to speak to many of you about your reopening plans for your church buildings. Sessions have created a variety of strategies largely based on the different circumstances of their congregations.  A lot of planning and debate has accompanied these strategies. As a result, some congregations have already opened for worship with protocols in place. Some are planning on opening soon. Some are waiting for what they consider a safer time.

However, the last week and a bit have significantly changed the risk factors in many parts of Canada, especially in the neighbourhoods of some of our churches.

What was true two weeks ago seems obsolete today. My question is, “Have you re-evaluated your plans?” It doesn’t seem to matter how much effort and how detailed your planning was up until late September. Things have changed dramatically. 

Here is my concern today. What is more important, your previous plan or the changing risks of Covid in our area? I encourage you all to be bold in the action you take in light of the second wave. The health and very lives of those we are responsible for is at stake. I worry that some might resist acting out of greater caution because they might be seen as going backwards or showing weakness. My concern is that if we have outbreaks attributable to one or more of our congregations not taking the greater risk factors today into account, we will be seen as irresponsible, callous and unloving.

It is not my role to tell you what to do with your reopening plans. But I think it is my role to call your to prayerfully re-examine your plans and to encourage you to act, if that is what is called for.

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

1 Peter 5:1-4   

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