We are grateful that we have been able to return to in-person services since June, and that we have been able to do so safely. Although the good vaccination uptake on the North Shore is helping to keep case rates reasonably low in our neighborhoods, the fourth wave of COVID-19 fueled by the more transmissible Delta variant as well as other variants of concern means that we need to remain vigilant. As a community of faith which seeks to live out Jesus’ mandate to love one another, we must remain committed to protect the vulnerable in our midst and provide as safe an environment as possible to all who come through our doors.
Therefore, following the Public Health Orders issued on November 30 requiring that participants attending worship services, including choirs, must wear a face covering during worship services, our expectation is that everyone 5 years and older will wear a mask in all areas of the church building at all times and throughout worship services on Sundays. This recommendation applies to both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals. Although being fully vaccinated reduces the likelihood of severe disease, studies show that fully vaccinated persons—who may be asymptomatic—may still transmit the virus. Masks are most effective in protecting us when everyone wears them. Readers and celebrants will be allowed to speak without a mask when at the altar or pulpit, while maintaining physical distance from others.
The Public Health Orders for Worship Services announced on November 30 also stipulate that worship services must be limited to 50% of seated capacity, unless all the participants are vaccinated, in which case the capacity could increase to 100%. The seating capacity in our sanctruary is appoximately 200, which permits us to accomodate 100 worshippers without requiring proof of vaccination. Our typical Sunday attendance is below this threshold, so we are not requiring proof of vaccination at this time.
As we move into the fall, in addition to donning our masks again, we are reminding everyone to continue practicing our other basic layers of protection:
· Before coming to church assess yourself for symptoms of COVID-19. You can do this by visiting the BCCDC resource here - http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Info-Site/Documents/COVID_public_guidance/When_to_get_tested.pdf
· Please stay home if you are sick or feeling unwell.
· When you enter the church building or sanctuary, please wash your hands with soap and water or use the hand sanitizer provided at the entrances.
· Give others space. While we are free to no longer strictly enforce the 2 metre rule, please be considerate knowing that not everyone will feel comfortable being close to others.
We also encourage everyone who has not yet been vaccinated to get the vaccine, including children 5yrs. and up. We also encourage everyone who is eligible to receive their third booster.
COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease, like the flu, measles, and whooping cough. Vaccinations are the best prevention measure against COVID-19.
As we continue to gather in-person for Sunday worship into the Fall, here are the practices we will be following:
· We will wear our masks except when leading the liturgy/prayers/readings or providing music leadership.
· We can engage in congregational singing while wearing our masks
· Offering plates will continue to be placed in the narthex rather than passed around
· Our Pastor will thoroughly sanitize her hands before distributing communion wafers. We will refrain from the Common Cup. Communion wine will be distributed in individual single use cups.
· We will continue to refrain from hand-shaking or hugs during the passing of the peace except between families. A nod or smile will convey our goodwill for one another.
Our hope is that we will be able to relax these protective measures as vaccination uptake increases and the fourth wave subsides.