In an effort to support parishes as the province lifts its COVID restrictions, Bishop Stephen London has issued the following guidance. Please note, the phase-out will be contingent on case numbers and hospitalizations not rising in a dramatic fashion.
"If the case numbers go in the direction that we hope," he said in an email to the clergy of the diocese, "then all restrictions on worship and church activities will be lifted by the end of March. During this time, we continue to ask that if you have symptoms of covid, please stay home and join your community online for worship and prayer."
Capacity Limits for Churches: The capacity limits will be lifted for worship on February 27. Churches will no longer need to keep to the requirements of only 1/3 capacity. However, we encourage people to continue to maintain personal distance for the first half of March.
Mandatory Work at Home: This will be lifted on March 1, when the province of Alberta enters stage two of easing public health measures.
Masking Requirement: The province is lifting the indoor masking requirement on March 1. However, the diocese will continue a mask requirement for worship in churches for the two Sundays following (March 6 and 13). This reason is to be cautious and will give us the opportunity to see where the case numbers in the province are going by that time. The first Sunday, when masks will not be required, will be March 20.
ALSO: each parish will need to check their municipal rules around indoor masking. For instance, as of the writing of these guidelines, the mask bylaw is still in effect in Edmonton and would overrule these guidelines if the masking bylaw is still in effect after March 20.
The Common Cup at Eucharistic Celebrations: If the case numbers continue to go down, we will return to the use of the common cup on March 20. Of course, no one is required to partake of the common cup. You can choose to continue to take communion in one kind.
Coffee Hour: If the case number continues to go down, parishes are free to offer a time of fellowship after the service with coffee and food on the last Sunday of March, March 27.
"Please be kind to one another during this time," says Bishop Steve. "We have been under covid restrictions for a long time now. Please be gentle with one another as we come out of them. Respect the choices that people make within the bounds of these guidelines. And most importantly, love one another."