The Ontario government has ordered the closure of non-essential workplaces, leaving many churches wondering how they can continue engaging in core ministry activities.
Barry W. Bussey, Director of Legal Affairs at CCCC, has written to all Ontario government MPPs expressing concerns churches have over access to their places of worship.
Some of the concerns raised include:
- Use of clergy study or office, whether for personal use or pastoral care, including counselling (conducted with appropriate distancing and hygiene precautions)
In times of uncertainty, isolation, anxiety, and loss of employment, religious leaders are able to provide comfort and peace to their congregants and others. Mitigating against mental health crises is particularly important in our current environment.
- Use of church facilities to live-stream or record worship services for broadcast
Religious leaders do not necessarily have equipment or capability to prepare religious programming from their personal residences and require the use of church facilities to continue sharing their message, teaching, and worshiping. For some Christian traditions, there is a particularly high value placed on sacred spaces, and it is important for those groups that recording or live-stream be done from the sanctuary. Minimal staff are required and social distancing can be accommodated. The announcement lacks clarity as to whether this is permissible.
- Home visits by religious leaders to congregants
In sum, CCCC has asked for further clarity on the closure of non-essential workplaces as they apply to the core activities of religious leaders and the range of services offered by religious communities.
We recognize that during this time of isolation, it is more important than ever to remain spiritually connected. As believers, we are also in a unique position to offer hope and comfort to our communities. Even though we may have to make changes, we can still prayerfully seek creative or unconventional ways to reach out!
We will update you once we receive any statements from the provincial government on these questions.
We are currently reviewing legislation and orders in other jurisdictions to determine if a similar letter would be helpful to members and churches.
Church and charity leaders are invited to share how they are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic within their organization in our online community forum The Green: COVID-19 Response Room.
Noteworthy is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Every organization’s circumstances are unique. Before acting on the basis of information contained in this blog, readers should consult with a qualified lawyer for advice specific to their situation.