Victoria, May 15, 2019
To all members of the diocese of Islands and Inlets
On May 13, Dr Bonnie Henry announced that faith communities could begin to gather again for worship in the near future. In so doing, she emphasized the need for strict adherence to current and future public health orders.
It is important to note that she was addressing a broad range of faith traditions who gather in diverse ways. Anglican liturgical practice poses unique challenges related to such things as movement, touch (of people and surfaces), length of exposure to recirculating air, congregational singing, and so on. Further, many active Anglicans—including our clergy and staff—are vulnerable to the coronavirus by reason of age or underlying health conditions.
The health and safety of all concerned is our priority.
Therefore, in this diocese, we will continue to keep our churches closed for a while yet. This includes gathering for worship, and for other ministry activities.
Meanwhile, our synod office staff is researching best practices, and next week we will provide diocesan guidelines for a safe reopening of our churches and ministries. We hope also to provide a target date by which all of us can meet the necessary requirements, so that we can move forward on a similar timeline. Thank you for all that you are doing to breathe life into our shared ministry.
(The Very Reverend) M. Ansley Tucker
dean of Columbia and diocesan administrator
Victoria, May 7, 2019
To all members of the diocese of Islands and Inlets
Yesterday, the premier and provincial health minister held a press briefing announcing the broad brushstrokes of a four-phased plan for moving forward into a new normal for life in BC. It gave us much hope and confidence that all that we have been doing has been worth our collective efforts.
The day is coming when small worship gatherings MAY be possible, but the time is not yet. Yesterday's briefing by the premier was not detailed enough for us as a diocese to make policy decisions. We are awaiting further detailed proposals from the government about religious community gatherings, that are also authorized by the provincial health officer. Our churches will remain closed for the time being.
As a faith community, we always live between the already and the not yet. Our current reality is that churches are closed to support our commitment to public health and safety. Many of the members of our congregations fall into the population the provincial health officer describes as vulnerable. We remain committed to protecting their health and wellbeing by temporarily sacrificing our desire to gather for worship. We have demonstrated over the last two months that we are able to worship virtually and this will be our continuing reality for a while. When we are able to gather again it will be with a detailed protocol about how to do so safely. In the meantime, we are called to persevere in the face of what is and has been challenging for us.
The Lord be with you.
J Barry Foster
March 16, 2020
Bishop Logan McMenamie has ordered all churches in the diocese closed for all public use, including worship, for sixty (60) days effective immediately.
" We know churches are places of refuge, celebration and commemoration for folks from all walks of life, but the church is more than just its buildings. We are working collaboratively across our region to find creative ways to remain pastorally present to people at a time when the assurance offered in the life of faith is so critical. At the same time however, we take seriously the government's call on jurisdictions across the country to strengthen their proactive responses to contain and slow the spread of this disease. This is one way we can do our part to show our care and concern for the most vulnerable in our communities," says McMenamie.
McMenamie, who is himself currently travelling in the US will end his trip early and return to the diocese on March 17, when he will enter into self-isolation for the recommended period of 14 days.
The closure includes all public worship and facility rentals with the exception of daycare facilities being operated on church property. This is subject to change as new information becomes available.
The exception to this wide-sweeping closure is Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Victoria, which will for the time being, remain open to the public as a place of prayer and contemplation. Cathedral staff will have protocols in place for increased cleaning and ensuring the recommendations around social distancing and limiting gathering to under 50 people are observed.
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Updated March 12, 2020. These guidelines are subject to change as the situation develops.
The best source of information on the COVID-19 virus is NOT the local or international media, but rather the World Health Organization and BC Centre for Disease Control.
On March 11, the World Health Organization characterized the COVID-19 virus as a pandemic. With this new information, governments around the world are being asked to dramatically increase their proactive efforts in reducing the spread of this disease. Although the risk to Canadians remains low, the number of confirmed cases across the country continues to rise.
Also on March 11, Premier John Horgan, BC provincial health officer Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health met via conference call with 128 faith leaders from across British Columbia to update them on the Province's efforts and enlist their help in those efforts. The unprecendented nature of this meeting is indicative of the important role government officials recognize faith communities play in such events.
During that meeting, Dr Henry stopped short of asking faith groups to not to gather for worship but this may become necessary if the situation changes. Trying to slow the progress of the transmission of this disease so that our health care system is not overwhelmed is an important contribution that we can all make.
It is important to emphasize that the following containment strategies are temporary. Unfortunately, we don’t know how long “temporary” will be in effect. We do know that there will be a time when we can resume familiar practices after the threat has passed.
1. Encourage social distancing
2. Do not share food
3. Practice proper hygiene & increase cleaning efforts
It is important at this time to be aware of the situation as it develops, but not to become overly alarmed. Throughout history the church has been an agent of calm, reassurance, and compassion. This continues to be one of the most important roles we can play during times such as these.
Check back here regularly for updates. We are monitoring the situation closely.