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Some of you may have heard media reports yesterday that our Provincial Health Officer (PHO), Dr Bonnie Henry, has made it possible for us to restart ‘in-person’ worship at St Paul’s.

Dr Henry did indeed announce a trial for indoor in-person worship on four selected days between March 28 and May 13. However, earlier in the week, Bishop John had already directed parishes as follows:

“I will not give my consent to hold indoor in-person worship until after April 11 and possibly longer. To be clear, this includes Holy Week and Easter Day and the Sunday after Easter. Even if the Provincial Health Officer gives her consent to allow in-person indoor worship to take place, we have passed the date where we can provide careful planning for this at Easter.”

We will be reviewing with the staff team to work out what is possible and safe to do within the new regulations – we have to submit our Plans to the Bishop’s office for approval before they can go ahead. From an initial reading of the new order, we foresee problems. The rules are more demanding than previously when it comes to pre-registration and screening – so more volunteers are required. Secondly we must caution anyone who has an underlying medical condition, a compromised immune system or anyone who is 70 years of age or older, even if they have been immunized against COVID-19 to not attend. This, of course, means they cannot be asked to volunteer, even if they decided to attend. One of our realities is that a good proportion of our parishioners fall in this category. The fact that it specifically addresses those who have been vaccinated is a surprise and one we are making more inquiries on.

No choirs or congregational singing is permitted and finally, it is very strict that people cannot congregate and have conversations on the church premises – the fellowship opportunities we so love, even to have a conversation, are specifically prohibited in this trial period. So, for example, Philip would not be able to go out to the sidewalk as before as that would encourage people to congregate and have a conversation!

In writing we wanted to give you an early sense of where we are little more than 24 hours after the announcement - we did not want to get your hopes up prematurely and you needed to know about Bishop John’s direction. However, we are working on how we can have worship and fellowship opportunities when it is safe to do so and we are excited and energised by that.

In the meantime, please continue to reach out to each other and to us as we support each other through this present crisis, which will pass.