This excerpt from Bishop John Stephens’ Pastoral Letter from September 14 speaks to the particular protocols we are following (the full text of the Pastoral Letter can be found here).
Greetings to you and once more I give thanks to God for all of your work that helps to ensure the safety and protection of the people of the diocese. The last 19 months have been difficult for all of us, and I thank you for your commitment to following the protocols that I have put in place in response to the guidance of the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), Dr. Bonnie Henry. Here is part of the response sent out to faith leaders in our province:"All worship services (and receptions following services) are exempt from the mask mandate and the requirement for proof of vaccination. In addition, any public meetings held in faith-based settings that have a worship component such as youth groups and pastor meetings or essential services like NA/AA group meetings, warming and cooling centres, or providing food to people in need, are also exempt from the mask mandate and proof of vaccination requirement."
Dr. Henry is fully supportive of faith leaders putting into place firmer protocols increasing the safety for all people and reducing the spread of the virus. From this, I want to reiterate and clarify my expectations within the Diocese of New Westminster.
1) I strongly encourage all people who are eligible to receive the vaccine be vaccinated. If you have not been vaccinated you may want to consider worshipping online.
2) If you are feeling unwell, please do not attend in-person worship.
3) Masks are to be worn upon entry to the church and kept on for the entirety of the liturgy, with the exception of when speaking in the liturgy, consuming the bread/Body of Christ, or when consuming food or drink at a reception.
4) Greeters/welcomers are to wear masks.
5) Anyone speaking or singing solo may remove their mask for this role.
6) A choir is permitted during worship but it is requested that they all wear a mask even while singing, and distance from one another as much as is possible.
7) Congregational singing is permitted but all in the congregation must be wearing masks.
8) Prior to receiving Communion, individuals should sanitize their hands.Sunday Schools may offer classes (the teachers and parents must be comfortable enough for this to happen) but teachers and students (as much as is possible) must be masked at all times.
9) Social times before or after worship are permitted, however, please ensure that those handling food/beverages have sanitized their hands. People must wear a mask (when not consuming food or drink) and distance as much as is reasonable in this setting as well. [St Stephen’s hopes to reintroduce coffee on Thanksgiving Sunday.]
10) For meetings (Bible Study, Christian Formation events, Parish Council, Youth Group, other committee meetings), all in attendance must be masked.
Along with this:
- Communion is in one kind only (except for the priest), the bread/body of Christ. The cup/wine/blood of Christ will not be offered to anyone other than the presider at this time.
- At the time of exchanging the Peace of Christ, there must not be handshaking or hugs (except between members of the same household). Please nod or bow to one another.
- Please refrain from passing Offertory plates at this time.