Greetings from my home office on a beautiful summer day.
As you will know, the Ontario government surprised many church leaders earlier this month by giving permission for churches to open up with restrictions. The permission granted seemed so disconnected from other COVID-19 guidelines that continued to urge isolation and small gatherings of up to ten people only. In that light, most mainline churches have remained closed and our Regional Council Elders have strongly urged us to not open until September.
Eastminster’s Management Team met on Wednesday, 24th June to discuss issues related to opening. The Team’s primary concern is to protect the health and welfare of our members, adherents, and other users of the building. We spoke about the age demographic of our congregation as well as the low incidence of the disease in the Quinte Region. The following decisions were made.
- Worship Services at Eastminster will resume on September 13 providing that the incidence of the virus continues to decline. Since the virus will still be around, Services will be limited in attendance and in accordance with government guidelines for worshipping communities.
- The Church Office will open on July 2 with Diane in the office, Tuesday – Friday from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm. The Church doors and the Office itself, will remain locked, however, to keep Diane safe. Diane will answer your telephone calls, do some administrative work, and pass on messages to other staff members as needed. Should anyone need to drop anything off at the church, an appointment can be made with Diane. Please continue to observe Ontario hygiene guidelines and social distancing when doing so. Only staff will be allowed into the office itself.
- Beginning on July 23rd, the Sanctuary will be open on Thursdays from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm for prayer should you wish to drop in. There will be a sign-up sheet at the door of the sanctuary, please sign in so that we know who dropped by. Hand sanitizer etc. will be readily available.
- We are looking at an outdoor Worship Service during the summer providing the government allows for such an event.
- The Open Door Café and all building usage by outside groups continues to be postponed. Due to responsibilities, liabilities, and the need for disinfecting all areas where individuals go, we are not able to allow external use of the building at this time (to be reviewed in September).
- An earlier decision was made on June 21 by the Church Council to accommodate those who do not have computers or the bandwidth capacity to view online services. A ‘hybrid’ Service will be held in the Sanctuary for this small group of individuals. The online Service will be shown on the screen each Sunday beginning July 19th at 10:00 am. Social distancing and hygiene protocols will be observed. Masks should be worn (there will be some available at the church if participants do not have their own).
Please be in prayer for the ministry of Eastminster as well as for the safety of our congregation members as we open slowly. We are hoping for a continued low incidence of COVID-19 in Belleville and Ontario but as we have learnt over the past few months, things can change quickly and the Management Team will respond as needed.
Until next time,
Dr. David McMaster