I hope that everyone was able to enjoy the weekend. It was encouraging to move into Stage 1 and I know that some of you were able to enjoy a restaurant meal, haircut or a game of golf. And for once, the weather cooperated for an enjoyable May long weekend. For me, much of this past week has been spent in relaunch mode, both at my work and church. I have been reading government guidelines and other information on how other churches are contemplating a relaunch of worship and church activities.
Tonight, Pastor Henry and I were able to participate in another Tele-town Hall with Premier Kenney and Dr. Hinshaw. This conference call was meant to explain the new government guidelines for Places of Worship, and to answer questions from the over 1000 people on the call. I was impressed by the respect that the Premier and Dr. Hinshaw expressed for faith communities- they recognize the importance of faith communities in people’s lives. However, this is also tempered with the reality that religious gatherings have proven to be the source of “superspreading” events which have led to significant outbreaks and deaths in Alberta. The message they presented was that the guidance documents are the best advice they can give to protect our communities based on current knowledge of the virus and how it spreads.
Council executive met with the chairs of elders and deacons and Pastors Henry and Lisa after the Town Hall to discuss how to best implement the new guidelines here at West End. There are some changes that you will notice when you arrive at the church. We are asking everyone who enters the building to sign the log sheet that is at the entrance. This is being done for contact tracing; in the event anyone is diagnosed with Covid-19, Alberta Health can use this information to contain the outbreak as quickly as possible. These sheets will be kept for 14 days, and then destroyed. Also, as per Stage 1 recommendations that work continue to be done remotely, the church will remain closed to all activities that have not been previously approved by Executive.
Executive also discussed the implication of the new guidelines on our worship services. The increase in numbers to 50 people is a step in the right direction, however there are still significant restrictions on participation. Executive has decided that the increased allowance in numbers at worship services will be used to increase our worship leadership participation and allow family members of service participants to attend those services. Many of our staff and volunteers have been at every service and giving the option for them to worship with their families is a good way for us to ease into our return to communal worship. It is quite possible that worship numbers will be expanded in Stage 2, which may start as early as June 19.
Pastor Lisa also reported on initial plans for summer programs for our children. Day camps are allowed as part of Stage 1; stay tuned for more details on Summer Faith Walk! It is encouraging to begin planning for activities we can do together, another sign of hope that we are returning to more familiar ways of being community.
As community is a theme that has wound its way through my readings and devotions this week. I am heartened by the notes of appreciation for our livestreamed services – it is obvious that this is a source of joy, comfort and inspiration for many of us. As we work towards being able to worship together, may we remember that together we are the body of Christ, and that our gifts can be used in His service far beyond the walls of our building. May we continue to look for ways to be sources of hope and joy to our communities.