Dear United Church worship and church leaders across BC,
As you know the BC Government unveiled its re-opening plan this week. Combined with gratitude for BC’s vaccine roll out and so many accessing it, this marks a significant moment in our pandemic journey, the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Our hearts and minds leap to the possibility of seeing family and gathering together in ways that we have been unable to do for what seems like a very long time. As I write this, I am in my office, something I have been unable to do since March and am grateful for this opportunity. At the same time, I’m also aware of parts of the world that are still being ravaged by the effects of this disease and know that there is still much work to be done to end this worldwide pandemic.
As we begin to contemplate the possibility of re-opening our buildings, as a Region, we still recommend caution and taking great care with our safety protocols. The last thing we want to do is end up with another COVID wave. Emphasizing the need to stay at home if you feel unwell is a key component of a safe return to in-person gatherings.
Its also important to remember that this has been a time of tremendous anxiety for many, and that anxiety is still very much present for some. Today’s CBC news article says this: “As B.C. begins moving toward its goal of lifting virtually every one of its public health restrictions by early September, countless residents are feeling hope for the first time in more than a year. But for others, the idea of stepping out of isolation and back toward normal life seems impossible to get their head around — even though they feel like they should be elated.
A study published Wednesday found 52 per cent of Canadians felt some level of anxiety about a return to normal, with those between 18 and 24 showing the highest levels of unease at 68 per cent.” Keeping this in mind in your building re-opening plans will be important. Continuing to offer online opportunities so that those who feel that they cannot attend in person can remain connected will help address these ongoing anxieties. In our upcoming Town hall meeting, we will be looking at Hybrid Worship as one important aspect of post-pandemic life.
Included in this email are the 3 PDFs from the Province of BC’s Ministry of Health and BC Centre for Disease Control that clearly outline the specifics of what is now allowed (and what isn’t) in BC, regarding communities of faith gathering:
- COVID-19 Guidance for Faith Based Organizations – May 26 2021 final.pdf
- Indoor Worship Services Variance May 26 final.pdf
- Outdoor Worship Services Variance May 26 final.pdf
I’d like to highlight some points below and encourage you to review the government’s PDFs for more full details.
- Up to 50 people are allowed for both Indoor and Outdoor worship (only), with appropriate precautions.
- Church ‘meetings’ are not permitted until Step 2 of the BC Government plan (June 15).
- While church leaders can begin to re-open their buildings with caution, we recognize that the number allowed is quite still small. Some may wish to wait until more of your congregation can gather, as the fall BC Steps allow.
This note, the government’s PDFs, and an updated Pacific Mountain Regional Council Safety Protocols will be available this week on our website’s COVID-10 Support page: (https://pacificmountain.ca/support/covid-19/ (PacificMountain.ca/Support/Covid-19)
The pandemic months have brought incredible opportunities for growth within some of the most personally and professional challenging situations that most of us have experienced. Daily, I reflect on the hard work that you are doing to stay connected, relevant and to live God’s way of love in the world, even when we are physically distanced from one another. As we move into re-opening and the pivot that this requires of us all, I’m reminded of the ‘70-20-10 theory’ that some may have explored in coaching or continuing education opportunities – that when it comes to ways we grow in our work, 70% of our evolution comes from challenging on-the-job tasks; 20% from watching and working with others; and 10% from formal learning opportunities (like lectures or classes, whether online or in person). The ways the I’ve seen and experienced United Church leadership evolving and transforming in the adversity of this pandemic is inspiring and full of hope.
Executive Minister, Pacific Mountain Regional Council