Church Doors Are Opening!

This entry is part 31 of 32 in the series COVID-19.

Exciting announcements have been made this week about places of worship!

Ontario announced that all places of worship across the province can re-open to 30% capacity, Alberta announced it was removing gathering restrictions on places of worship, and both Saskatchewan and New Brunswick recently increased worship gathering size.

As governments have eased restrictions for business, industry and services a plethora of guidance has been released (Alberta will soon have 60+; Ontario has 100+; Newfoundland & Labrador has almost 50) and churches are asking “what restrictions apply to us?”

In Ontario, the Stage 2 Reopening Plan explains that “the government will make available guidance, including limiting attendance to 30 per cent of building capacity and practicing physical distancing” and that “guidance will also be provided for spiritual leaders and their staff.”

CCCC received notice that “Further to the news earlier this week allowing places of worship to resume services at 30% capacity starting Friday June 12, 2020, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has provided guidelines to help places of worship re-open safely.” Those guidelines are found here: Guidance on Health & Safety for Places of Worship (you can also find this document from the Ontario Workplace Resources page; scroll to the bottom and search the table for “worship”).

Still, many Ontario church leaders are wondering whether more is forthcoming. On June 15, the Ontario Ministry of Health released additional guidance containing much more detail as to core elements of religious practice, making it similar to the highly prescriptive and limiting guidance from other provinces (see listing below). It is only available through a fairly obscure Ministry of Health list of guidance and not in the main government listing of sector-specific guidance.

Some local public health authorities have also released guidance (i.e. Middlesex-London, Toronto).

Provincial guidance for places of worship or gatherings can be found here:

Alberta: Relaunch Guidance for Places of Worship

British Columbia: Guidance for Faith-Based Organizations

Manitoba: Public Gatherings

New Brunswick: Q&A – Religious Services

Newfoundland & Labrador: Guidance for Gatherings

Nova Scotia: Drive-in Religious Services; Gathering restrictions

Ontario: Guidance on Health & Safety for Places of Worship

Prince Edward Island: Worship Service Guidance

Saskatchewan: Places of Worship Guidance – 1/3 Occupancy, Max 30

Yukon: Faith-Based Service Guidance – lesser of 30% capacity or 50

It is encouraging to see recognition of the essential role of churches in meeting the heightened emotional, psychological and spiritual vulnerabilities of our communities during this unusual season.

Churches and charities have diligently served the physical needs of vulnerable people and have been creative in their responses to closures and lockdown.

But equally as important, churches meet the oft-hidden need for hope, psychological security and spiritual wellbeing in the broader community.  We know and share in the conviction that our faith is what gives hope and strength to carry on during difficult times and are thankful that church doors are starting to reopen.

For additional guidance on workplace safety, provincial and territorial re-opening plans and other key links, see Re-opening Plans Across Canada.

Ministry workers 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.

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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.