All Parishes Moved to Lockdown as COVD-19 Cases Surge

Bishop issues new lockdown ministry guidelines for the diocese

Posted December 22, 2020

Bishop Susan Bell has suspended all permissions to re-open for in-person worship granted to parishes in accordance with the Amber Stage of the ecclesiastical province’s re-opening framework, effective December 22, in advance of a provincial lockdown set for Boxing Day.

During a briefing on new provincial modelling data, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, associate chief medical officer of health, noted that the province is facing "a challenging and precarious situation." Dr. Yaffe added that the earlier work starts to reduce the number of people interacting, the lower the number of cases, ICU admissions, and ultimately deaths.

“I know the closure of churches for Christmas will be yet another loss to mourn, and I share your pain arising from moving to a lockdown position yet again,” wrote Archdeacon Bill Mous, diocesan executive officer, in an email message to clergy and lay leaders announcing the decision. “Our sacrifice, however, is made for the common good and in keeping with the God-centred vision of our diocese, that in all things we are called to life and compelled to love.”

Several areas of the diocese are now at levels that surpass 100 weekly cases of COVID-19 per 100,000. As the number of cases grow, the health care system is under increasing strain. Provincial health officials reported that intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy for COVID-19 has more than doubled in the last month and is 20 times higher than at the beginning of September.

The new lockdown ministry guidelines issued by Bishop Susan Bell include:

  • church buildings being closed to the public, except for the operation of licensed day care centres, where permitted by the Ministry of Education;
  • occasional and time-limited access to church buildings being permitted only in limited and essential circumstances;
  • pastoral care being provided primarily by remote means for all but essential visits and/or emergency care;
  • in-person worship not being permitted, except for the purposes of producing online worship services; and
  • all weddings, funerals, and baptisms being postponed, except in rare and exceptional circumstances, by permission of the regional archdeacon.

The new measures will be in effect through the Christmas season and remain in effect for at least 28 days, until such time as new guidelines are issued by the bishop.

The province’s chief medical officer of health is advising Ontarians to “stay home to the fullest extent possible.” Trips outside of the home during lockdown should be limited to the community in which one resides and only for essential purposes such as accessing health care and medication, grocery shopping, or supporting vulnerable people.

Parishioners are invited to visit the diocesan Facebook Page and/or YouTube channel for worship, if online parish services are not available. A special virtual Christmas Eve service with Bishop Bell will be livestreamed at 6pm from Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton.