Greetings members of Living Skies Regional Council,

Two people wearing masks and smiling, with a streetscape in the background.We are quickly approaching Christmas Eve, and plans are well underway for both in-person and remote worships.  I know there have been lots of questions about the restrictions seeking clarifications about what they allow.

Here’s what you need to know for remote/recorded worship:

–        All people involved in the worship must be masked.  The only exception is the worship leader (minister) who can be unmasked if preaching from a lectern/pulpit/stand and is a minimum of 3 meters away from everyone.

–        Musicians and singers must wear masks.  The exception is woodwind and brass players who may remove their masks for the duration of their piece as long as they are a minimum of 3 meters distant from all others.

–        Do not share microphones.

–        Please maintain physical distancing as well as you can

Here’s what you need to know for in-person worship:

–        The restrictions that are in place for recorded worships stand for in person worship as well.

–        The maximum number of worshippers is 30 people.  This is a hard cap number that has come from the Health Authority.  The maximum number does not include the staff/clergy of the church.  Volunteers are a grey area in this case.  According to the representatives working with the Faith Leaders Working Group, volunteers technically fall into the 30 person maximum.  That being said, it is understood that there is some need in some congregations to use volunteers to maintain the protocols for in-person worship beyond the work of clergy and staff.   Please use moderation in having volunteers present at in person worship, and when able use the absolute minimum number of volunteers at worship.

–        Concurrent worship gatherings, an additional 30 people in a separate room in the building (i.e. a gym or basement), is NOT ALLOWED.  The 30 person maximum is for the building total.  I know this adds challenges to Christmas Eve planning, but please, we need to maintain this mandate or, as we have been warned, face financial fines.  This is the biggest change that will be in place until January 15th, 2021.  Consecutive worship services are allowed as long as there is sufficient time allowed for sanitizing between groups.

–        Please remember to maintain a contact tracing list, screen people for symptoms of COVID, maintain sanitizing, and make sure everyone is wearing a mask.

–        Communion is allowable as long as a common cup is not used, plates are not passed, and that movement around the church is kept to a minimum.

The current health order is in place from December 14 until January 15th, 2021. I know that this offers significant challenges to how we plan to worship through Advent 4, Christmas Eve and into the New Year.  Friends, please take heart, the Infant Jesus will still make his way into our lives regardless of the size of our worship numbers, where we worship, how we worship, or how big our celebrations are.  This is our calling as a people of faith, who aim to live our lives as reflections of the ministry of Jesus, a ministry of compassion, love and care of neighbour.

My fellow people of faith, you are doing your absolute best to make sure that the people in this region are able to remain connected not only to their faith, but also to their communities.  Be gentle with each other, and with yourself as we continue to navigate this time together.  Blessings and peace to you.

Rev. Tricia Gerhard

Chair, Living Skies Regional Council Executive