On Sunday, July 25, parishes in Niagara began a cautious re-opening of church buildings for in-person public worship services, with all parishes expected to re-open no later than September 12.
“I am so very glad to be able to write – at long last – that we are beginning the process for re-opening our churches for public worship,” said Bishop Susan Bell in a pastoral letter to the people of the diocese. “Thanks be to God!”
The decision to re-open was made possible by the collective sacrifices of Ontarians in adhering to pandemic protocols in recent months, as well as high levels of COVID-19 vaccine uptake which have driven case rates down and held variants of concern at bay for the time being.
“For those of us for whom returning is a difficult idea whether through anxiety at the thought of gathering again, or because the habit of faith has become faint through lack of contact with the gathered body of Christ, I pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen you, uphold you and stir in you both the memory of the joy of Christian fellowship and the present need for the Church to be the Church,” wrote Bishop Bell.
Capacity limits for services will vary by church, based on the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of at least 2m from every other person in the worship space. Masking and physical distancing will continue to be required for all ministry activities.