Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Friend in Christ,

On Monday, June 8, the Office of the Premier issued the following announcement:

Effective Friday, June 12, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., the province will increase the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people across the province, regardless of whether a region has moved to Stage 2. Additionally, all places of worship in Ontario will also be permitted to open with physical distancing in place and attendance limited to no more than 30 per cent of the building capacity to ensure the safety of worshippers.

That same day, the Office of the Deputy Premier stated that the province would begin the reopening of businesses in with Public Health Units in Stage 2. As you can see from this list, Haldimand Norfolk is not included in that list. Neither is Hamilton or the GTA.

Clergy in the affected areas were confused. I am one of those confused clergy. 30 per cent of both the Cayuga and Mount Olivet buildings would allow for more than 10 people—which would increase the risk of COVID transmission. This risk increases when one opens a building in an area with active cases in Stage 1. To date, the regional councils have not provided any additional information or direction. This leaves the decision to remain open or closed in the hands of the Church and Pastoral Charge Boards/Councils.

These risk factors and many other risk factors have been in my mind since Monday. They have also been in the hearts and minds of your key pastoral charge leaders. United Church leaders (laity and clergy) have a Duty of Care for all of the people within its organizations. Your leaders are called to care for and about your well-being and safety when gathered. But even more important than a program prescribing care is the call Jesus Christ has made to His followers: to love one another and to love our neighbours as ourselves. (Mark 12:31 adapted).

On Tuesday, June 9 at 7pm, the members of the Pastoral Charge Board (Chris Kuckyt, Christine Rowell, David Bruce, Donalda Mitchell, Carolyn Hamilton and I) and key leaders (Patti and Brian Pogson, Monica Grabham, Rose Anne Maracle and Jim Smith) met on Zoom to discuss how to care for all of you.

We had to make a decision that would protect you this Sunday and for all the Sundays that would follow as we continue to live in the pandemic. We made our decision based on the best information we had at the time. That decision is not to offer worship on June 14 in any of the church buildings. The Board and The Ad Hoc Covid Committee will work towards re-opening our buildings on Sunday, September 6, 2020. This means, we will continue to offer worship online for the duration. Please read the minutes attached to this email for further information about that meeting.

While safety concerns may be keeping us from worshipping in a building, we continue to be gathered by God through the Holy Spirit.  May Christ continue to work in us and with us as we demonstrate care and compassion for one another in the days and months to come.

Stay safe.
Be blessed and be a blessing.

Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Debbie McMillan