Dear friends in Christ,
I was glad when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord. Psalm 122
It has been almost six months since we closed the doors of our church in accordance with the protocols established by our bishops[i]. Together we have weathered the early phase of a global pandemic, adapting our worship and our daily lives in order to flatten the curve and keep one another safe. We have done this for the common good.
We have continued to be the church in this time. We have adapted to online worship. We have seen the cracks in our social system and St. George’s folks have responded with generosity to the most needy and vulnerable. We have supported front-line workers, sewing masks and scrub caps. We have grieved with those who have suffered great loss in this time. We have prayed daily, for our world and for the needs of others. I am so humbled and encouraged by your strength, forbearance and hope, and I am deeply grateful.
On September 13, 2020, we will resume in-person worship in accordance with diocesan protocols for the amber phase of our pandemic response. I am grateful to our wardens, and a dedicated parish transition team. Together we have been imagining worship with new rules to follow. One person observed that it’s like the book of Leviticus, with over 600 rules for entering the meeting place, conducting the liturgy, and keeping things clean! Thankfully we don’t have that many rules to follow, but we need to learn to do things differently with great care.
Service times are changing!
In order to accommodate cleaning requirements and to allow time for people to arrive and be seated, we are changing our Sunday morning service time for the later service. Our midweek service of said Eucharist is moving to Wednesday.
In-person worship services will be held as follows:
- Sunday, 9 am – Traditional communion in the worship centre. Service capacity is 42.
- Sunday, 11 am – Contemporary family communion service in the worship centre. Service capacity is 42.
- Wednesday, 10 am – Said Eucharist in the worship centre.
The biggest change is that you now have to register in advance to attend a service on Sunday. The midweek service will require you to give contact tracing information upon arrival.
How do I register to attend a service?
Each Monday, an email will be sent to the parish with a link to an online form. You fill out the form, indicating which service your household will attend the following Sunday. You can also indicate on the form if you would be willing to attend the alternate service time. Registration will remain open until Thursday at 9 pm.
On Friday, you will receive a confirmation email, or else a notice that the service you have chosen is full. You will need to register every week. It will take about 5 minutes to do so. Further instructions for this process will be included in the email and will be mailed to those who are not on online.
Why do we need to use this system?
There are two reasons. First, we need to reduce the size of our gatherings in order to allow for safe physical distancing. Second, we need to keep detailed records, with full contact information for everyone who attends our services, as mandated by the Diocese of Toronto.
What are the rules for attending church?
- Maintain physical distance of 2 metres at all times
- Mask wearing, except for babies and toddlers, is mandatory. Please bring your own. We will have a supply of disposable masks if you forget.
- Hand sanitization is required when you enter the building and after you receive communion. We will have hand sanitizer available. We encourage you to bring your own sanitizer and ask that you use one that contains at least 70 percent isopropyl alcohol or 60 percent ethanol.
- Our service will have beautiful music, but congregational singing will not be part of our worship for the time being.
- Seating will be reserved for you, according to household. The sides-people will help with entering, being seated, receiving communion, and exiting the building safely.
- Offerings will be placed in the alms basin at the entrance to the sanctuary.
My friends, I realize this sounds daunting, but it is doable. At the very heart of the rule book of Leviticus, is this commandment in chapter 19, verse 18, and it is the reason we follow the rules with an abundance of caution: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
I have learned that you, the people of St. George’s, have the gift of love for God, for one another, and for our world in all its pain and struggle. You have demonstrated a spirit of determination, along with forbearance and hope in these times. I know that we can do this together.
We want worship to be available for everyone who wants to attend, whether in person or online. People with underlying health conditions or who are not feeling well should not attend in-person services. Some people are uncomfortable about being in larger gatherings at this stage of the pandemic; please rest assured that online worship will continue. New equipment has been put in place to make it possible for us to livestream from the sanctuary. If you need help with technology, let us know. Someone can help you get set up at home. If you have questions about coming to the church that aren’t answered here, let us know that too. We are ready to respond to your questions and concerns. I ask your continued prayers for St. George’s as we prepare to worship safely, with reverence and joy.
Remember we will get through this together, with God’s help. And we’ll see you soon! I can’t wait, for it will be great joy to be together in worship, in prayer and in communion.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Susan Spicer,
[i] Our Covid-19 response is guided by the protocols established by the House of Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario. In March, we entered the red phase, which stipulated that our churches be closed to public worship. On September 13th, we enter the amber phase, which allows our churches to open for in-person worship, with some restrictions. A detailed protocol, in the form of a checklist, for re-opening in the amber phase has been established by the Diocese of Toronto. The transition team for St. George’s, together with staff and wardens, are responsible for fully implementing this diocesan protocol. If you would like to learn more, please visit www.toronto.anglican.ca. If you are not online and would like a copy, please let us know, and we will mail one to you.