Nearing the end of the second week since Alberta began implementing Phase One of the provincial relaunch strategy, the first steps taken to ease restrictions imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19, Bishop Jane has delivered to the Diocese of Edmonton an updated set of guidelines for when and how parishes might begin to gather in person over the next few months.
The new guidelines follow an update from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. On Monday, May 25, Hinshaw and her team released six pages of guidance for places of worship, clarifying a two-page document previously set out May 10. Bishop Jane has referred to the updated provincial health advice and drawn on conversations with ecumenical partners from the Roman Catholic Church in Alberta, the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Alberta and British Columbia, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, to provide new direction going forward.
This new direction from the Bishop sees the possibility of some parishes holding public services beginning, at the earliest, on June 15. Others may choose to plan for the beginning of July, August or September as a starting point, depending on their situations.
Until guidance from the province changes, the number of attendees at public worship services will be limited to 50 people or 1/3 of the congregation’s usual size, as defined by the government guidelines. Hygiene practices and physical distancing must be maintained, along with a number of other measures. The process for mitigating the risks involved in holding any kind of gathering at a church is labour-intensive. In every case, the parish must submit a risk mitigation questionnaire and risk reduction plan to the Bishop for approval at least two weeks before the intended date of the gathering. Only with Bishop Jane’s written consent can a parish proceed with publicizing a public worship gathering.
Because each parish is different, and because the process is complicated, Bishop Jane wants to be clear that “this is not a competition of any kind to see who opens first or last.”
“We will be required to show extraordinary grace to one another,” she says, “to colleagues whose views on re-opening differ from our own, and to parishioners who want to move faster or slower in returning to a more normal life.”
A Special Synod Scene was issued on May 27, including all the Bishop’s guidelines. Please follow this link to that information.