Reopening Church Buildings in Ontario – Step Three


Friends, by now I am sure everyone is aware that we have moved to Step 3 of reopening in the province of Ontario. In terms of Places of Worship (and other religious rites) this is what is now permitted:

Religious services, rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services (does not apply to receptions): Indoor and outdoor permitted with capacity limited to permit physical distancing of 2 metres.

My reading of this is that there are no longer any percentage maximums for worship services other than maintaining social-distancing relative to the size of the sanctuary. 

The new guidelines do not specifically address coffee hour, but, the phrase – “does not apply to receptions” suggests that we use the general ‘gathering’ guideline of 100 outdoors and 25 indoors (no mingling!). Honestly, if it were up to me I would not have an indoor coffee hour and only reluctantly offer any outdoor refreshment.

In terms of social distancing, can I suggest the same procedures as before:

  • Exiting through a different door than entry
  • Seating from front to back
  • Keeping a list for contact tracing (I have attached one)
  • Open the windows! The more ventilation the better.
  • Of course wearing masks indoors. I invite you to read this article on the dangers of not masking – especially when singing

As you plan your reopening may I offer a couple of thoughts:

  • Consider a soft opening first – it is worth taking the time to get your procedures right before you open your doors wide.
  • Likewise, consider adding capacity slowly. You don’t have to go to full capacity right away.
  • Consider your minister’s holidays (as well as other staff members) as you plan to reopen. One church I know was planning to reopen in Step 2 when they realized they would only be open for two weeks before their minister would be gone for a month. They decided to wait until he got back from his holidays.
  • Consider whether you will continue to offer any kind of virtual worship in addition to in-person worship, and what that will look like.

While I am very hopeful that we are now opening for good, I am only cautiously optimistic. I fear that with the threat of Covid variants we may have to pivot once again. If we keep that in mind now, we might be better prepared later.

Blessings in this next phase of our Covid journey. Know that we are praying for you and the decisions that you are making. Please feel free to forward this to others in your presbytery or congregation.

Faithfully, John-Peter Smit

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