This morning, the province of Ontario returns to Step 2 of our roadmap to reopen. This decision was made in light of the staggering increase of Covid infection rates due to the Omicron variant. To give you an idea of how quickly this variant is moving, consider that the rolling average of cases in the province is now 14,598 compared to 10,327 a week ago and 926 a month ago.
The good news is that it appears that for the fully vaccinated this version of the virus is less serious than the Delta variant, but, it is still very serious.
In addition to a return to at home learning for school children, the province has also ceased indoor dining in bars and restaurants, closed gyms and indoor meeting facilities and restricted indoor social gatherings to no more than 5 people.
Churches are restricted to 50 percent of the room’s capacity for services, weddings and funerals with social distancing to be maintained.
In light of the Omicron variant, many churches made the decision to return to online services in late December. I suspect these new restrictions will help others make the same decision.
While churches are allowed to remain open, I am once again reminded of the words of the apostle Paul when he said ““All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NRSV). Yes, we can remain open, but in terms of transmissibility, I fail to see the difference between church interior space and restaurant or other interior meeting space. I strongly suggest that just because we can meet in person doesn’t mean we should meet in person.
If you and your congregation determine that you will continue to meet in person, as is your right, can I suggest that at the very least you require proof of vaccination from all those entering the building and that you extend the distances between people beyond the two metre requirement. Also, I would suggest that everyone, including all worship leaders keep their masks on for the entire service.
Almost all experts are cautiously optimistic that the Omicron variant will move quickly and that before too long numbers will begin to decrease. For now, the government’s efforts are not to stop the virus, it is too late for that, rather it is to slow it down so that our health system is not overwhelmed. As Christians, surely an important part of our testimony is to seek the public good and that has never been more important than now.