On Friday, March 12th, the Ontario Government announced it will ease capacity limits for weddings, funerals and religious services in regions classified as Grey Zones (Lockdown). These changes are effective March 15th. Current Grey Zones within the Canadian Shield Regional Council include the City of Sudbury and the City of Thunder Bay. The experiences of communities of faith around our region will be vastly different depending where you fall on the Ontario Government’s Covid Framework (please visit the CSRC Covid-19 page to find the colour for your area).
New provincial guidelines now allow for communities of faith within Grey Zones to permit indoor worship gatherings for up to 15 percent of total occupancy or up to 50 people outdoors. There are currently no changes for regions in Red Zones (Control).
Beyond the letter of the law, as people of faith, we are called to uphold the whole community and contribute wherever we can to well-being and safety. We understand that with the approach of Holy Week and Easter, congregations will be feeling a stronger urge to gather for in-person worship. However, as these new guidelines have been published while COVID cases remain high and new variants of the virus continue to emerge, we urge communities of faith within Grey Zones to carefully consider the risks associated with reopening for worship. For all church employees and volunteers, we strongly encourage you to work remotely from home unless it is essential to be on site.
This has been a long year full of uncertainty and ever-changing recommendations. With the anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, we are mindful of all the ways in which communities of faith have continued to be the church, even while not being able to gather.
We continue to hold all of you in our prayers.
Canadian Shield Regional Council Staff,
Rob Smith, Susan Whitehead, Peter Hartmans, Joan Bailey, Melody Duncanson Hales, and Rachael Howes