You may be asking, given the news from our health authorities, if we are reopening for in person worship on Easter Sunday? The short answer is; no, not yet. And here is why.
Our leadership team, in consultation with parish council, feel that it is still too soon to reopen in-person worship due to the higher numbers of daily covid infections, including faster spreading variants, and the relatively low vaccination rates to date- given the general population of our parish are within the “at risk” category for covid-19.
Dr. Bonnie Henry has been very clear during this pandemic that a couple of conditions need to be met in order for us to come back to in person worship. First, we must be able to demonstrate a safe and sustainable plan for the use of our space and second that covid-19 daily infections must remain below a safe threshold, alongside an increase in vaccination rates. While we have a sustainable plan for indoor worship, our daily infection and vaccination rates remain out of balance.
So the news that we can reopen to worship means that we can only reopen to worship outside, not inside, so if the weather is foul, cold, or wet- we have to be outside regardless. Currently our outdoor space has some limitations to it, which the leadership team are seeking to address.
Noise from the street has made it very difficult to hear the service/music in the past
There is currently no way to livestream outside due to the limits of our technology and the strength of our current internet connection
This means that we wouldn’t be able to accommodate those who aren't comfortable or unable to come back to in person worship in the backyard with a live streamed service.
There are, in the updated health orders, no provisions for indoor worship and the volatility of our weather means we would be constantly opening and closing in person worship depending on the weather.
This is a substantial amount of work and is not sustainable.
What I have heard clearly though our various conversations is just how much we miss being with one another, which manifests for us in two ways. We miss worshiping with each other, but we also miss visiting with each other. Since this public health order update does not address the second and only partially addresses the first, I believe, for the safety of our community, that now is not the time for us to reopen.
This will come as a further blow to our feelings of isolation and confinement as we wade through these last months of this pandemic, which increasingly feels like molasses, while we wait for vaccinations and a return to the freedom we are accustomed to. So here is what I am proposing we do as a team:
The leadership and I are looking at ways for us to safely reopen, after Easter, our spaces for outdoor fellowship on Sunday afternoons.
This will give us the opportunity to worship online together and then gather with our own coffee's in the backyard to socialize and visit.
I will work to put a plan together for you to receive Eucharist here at the church, individually, after the service, as we arrive for the social time in the backyard.
If our live streamed service is finished at 11:45, Eucharist can be received from 12pm, observing social distancing and sanitization, followed by a 12-1pm outdoor fellowship time- socially distanced with masks.
The leadership and I will pay very close attention to the vaccination rates, and when more of us in the community have received at least our first dose, we will seek to reopen in person worship with the permission of the diocese as is required.
Parish council is currently in the beginning stages of consultations to potentially rejuvenate the backyard to allow for more accessible outdoor worship, with integrated sounds system, music, stronger internet, ect, that will also enable outdoor performances, weddings, and concerts in the future, all while maintaining the natural beauty God has blessed us with.
The leadership and I are also evaluating all of our fundraisers this year, to find covid informed ways for us to come together and visit, after so long apart.
Christ reminds us that, in him, there are no distinctions of people, Jew or gentile, slave or free, for we are all one in him through baptism (Galatians 3:28), which extends to the way in which we gather for worship; without barriers to others. This parish remains a committed witness to that inclusiveness and I believe that with the limitations of the current health orders, our space/technology constraints, and the proximity to Easter during traditionally inclement weather, that its not yet time to reopen worship.
So will we reopen to in-person worship for Easter? no- not yet. But we will continue to worship online and come together soon, and I will be in touch with you when that time comes. In the meantime I ask you to continue to pray for me as I pray daily for you.
With Gods Blessing,
these lands upon which we worship as the ancestral, cultural, traditional and unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people from time immemorial.