March 16, 2022  

This COVID-19 protocol update is in response to the March 11, 2022 announcements from BC Public Health and the Pastoral Letter of March 15, 2022 from Bishop John Stephens. It comes as we mark the 2nd anniversary of living with COVID-19.  

The leadership team at St Stephen’s found it helpful to remind ourselves of the following (and hope you also find the reminders helpful):

  • We are a community dedicated to loving God and one another. Our “duty of care” for each other may be higher than the public health standard.
  • We have, therefore, trended towards more safety precautions rather than less.
  • We are all ready to be “done with COVID” on many levels, but many of us are also anxious and unsure if COVID is done with us.
  • We want people to encounter as few barriers as possible when coming to worship with us, knowing we will never be entirely “barrier free” (and this is true about much more than COVID).
  • We are committed to caring for each other, giving each other time and space to gain comfort with change, and grace to make mistakes in good faith.  

Effectively immediately:

  • We continue to encourage you to stay home when you are sick. Please join us by Zoom for worship rather than coming in if you are symptomatic.
  • There are no capacity limits for our worship services. At this time, our average attendance at Sunday worship (in building and on Zoom) remains at or below 50% of the building’s total capacity. We have lots of room.
  • We will continue to sit in every other pew for worship and to be mindful of physically distancing when together. We will revisit our seating arrangements at the end of March. We are a diverse community with a range of comfort levels with personal space – even before COVID. To best navigate this next phase, we may want to get comfortable asking, “Can I step closer to you? Would you like more distance between us?” And hearing, “Do you mind giving me a little more space, please? I’d like a bit more distance between us.”
  • Masks are no longer required when indoors at St Stephen’s. This includes during worship. Many people may continue to wear their masks and do so with our full support. Some will be ready to go without and do so with our full support. Lots of us may “mask up” in some circumstances and not others.
  • Because masks are no longer required during worship, we will begin singing together unmasked.    

Beginning after April 8th, we will:

  • No longer require proof of vaccination for activities such as coffee hour or meetings.
  • Restart regular coffee hours. At this time, we anticipate that Coffee Hour will be once a month.
  • Return to the practice of sharing both wafers and wine for Holy Communion. Please see Bishop John’s Pastoral Letter for more details on how we will include wine. There will be opportunities to discuss further the theology, plans, and practices around Holy Communion in the weeks to come. We hope to include wafers and wine at worship on Maundy Thursday, April 14, 2022.
  • Be allowed to include touch in the ways we might share a sign of the peace. Like many of these changes, this will require us to be attentive to one another and aware of each other’s boundaries. Some of us have appreciated sharing a sign of the peace without physical touch and some of us long to return to more demonstrative expressions. When we begin (hopefully, on Easter Sunday, April 17) we will provide instructions on how to signal your intentions clearly to each other. 

As we have done throughout the last two years, we invite your prayers for one another, for those are struggling, for the medical teams and others on the front lines of this pandemic, for public health decision-makers, and for yourself. May the grace of God hold us in anxiety and trouble.