Here you will find our COVID-19 Re-Opening Plans for Phase III (our current phase) and other information about how we are responding to this pandemic.
A public health order from November 19, 2020 has banned in-person gatherings, including public worship. These orders are have been extended indefinitely as of Feburary 5, 2021. The orders impact the life and ministry of St Stephen’s in the following ways
- Suspending in-person public worship. We offer a service of Morning Prayer via Zoom video and audio call on Sundays at 10 am. As soon as possible we will return to having the mix of Zoom and in-person we had been successfully doing in the Fall.
- Masks are now mandatory in public spaces. This includes the church. If you are visiting the building, please wear your mask.
- Parish Office hours will be shifted to work-from-home somewhat more than we were already doing. This new order does not require us to close the building as we did in the spring. What we have found in the last months, however, is that our office layout makes it challenging to maintain physical distancing when more than 1 person is working at a time. Parish staff have already been doing some work-from-home days to reduce our risks and that may ramp up even more. Which means that should you need to pick up or drop something off, please make an appointment in advance (even if you just call us before you leave to make sure we’re there).
- The building will remain open and many of our user groups are proceeding to hold meetings and classes.
- We have set up two periods each week where you can come in to pray: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 3:30. This space is available for private prayer only. Please enter from the sanctuary doors facing Cameron; stair-less entry is available by ringing the doorbell at the Parish Hall entrance.
- Your continued prayers for one another, those impacted by COVID-19, and for those working in public health are much appreciated.
Here's some background on how we have responded to COVID-19 from March 2020.
St Stephen's, along with all other parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster, closed our building in mid-March. For much of the Spring, we held only online worship -- at first joining nearby congregations for their livestreams and then holidng Zoom Coffee Hour to connect with one another. After the first few weeks, we began to worship together using a simple form of Morning Prayer and the Zoom platform.
At the request of Parish Council - who did some informal data gathering within the Parish - we sought permission to re-opening our building and return to in-person worship at every avaialble opportunity. Beginning in mid-June, we began praying Morning Prayer together in-person and on Zoom. Initially we used our Parish Hall as we learned how to maintain physical distancing and cleaning requirements, but starting in September we transitioned back into our sacred space.
We were also able and grateful to invite the many groups who use our building to begin returning, starting in September. The building is an active community hub with various AA and other 12-step meetings, regular exercise classes, and several additional faith groups using our Parish Hall. From September to early November, we happily hosted those groups. With increased restrictions beginning in early November, some of our groups have had to suspend activity, but others have continued. In addition, over the late summer and fall, our Thrift Shop was able to host three sales with careful COVID-19 protocols. We hope to be able to re-open for monthly sales in the Spring. Until we have re-opened to sales, we are not accepting donations.
We continue to monitor the pandemic situation and public health announcements carefully. Our Parish Council has expressed a desire to offering in-person options whenever we are able to do so.
We continue to uphold in prayers all those who are impacted by this crisis: medical professionals and those working in healthcare settings, front-line workers, the unemployed, those marking major life events in new ways, those learning new skills in challenging moments, the lonely and the never-alone. We take comfort in Dr Bonnie Henry's gentle reminder that this is for now, but not forever (rather like all of this life is for now and our eternal life in Christ is forever).