As I write, the cooler weather suggests that summer days and warmth are ebbing away for the 2020 season. Usually in the church, at this time of year, we are busy imagining what ministry will look like in the coming months and filling our calendars with a host of events and activities. As with so many things, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing a major re-think of all that we do.
Not long ago, it would have been hard to imagine a world without the opportunity to worship God in church on Sundays. Today, we are living in such a world and many are wondering when we will be able to get back to the worship experiences we are used to. Unfortunately, normality is a long way off but our Management Team is looking at September 27th as a possible re-opening date for smaller worship services. We had hoped to open earlier but the Team thought it best to wait another couple of weeks to see if there is an uptick in the incidence of the virus due to the long weekend and the children’s return to school. I will advise you during the week of the 27th as to whether we will open or not.
What to expect with re-opening?
Let me begin by saying that COVID-19 appears to be a dangerous virus for seniors and individuals with certain medical conditions. If you are in one or both of these categories, it is strongly advised that you evaluate the risks associated with attendance anywhere including church. To make things as safe as possible, Eastminster is doing its part in following government guidelines. To that end, various protocols are in place to ensure social distancing and good hygiene.
- If you have been out of the province or in an area with a high incidence of COVID-19, we respectfully ask that you wait fourteen days before attending worship services.
- If you feel unwell, have a cough, or any of the other COVID-19 symptoms, we respectfully ask that you not attend Worship until feeling better.
- Masks are required indoors and must be worn throughout the Service.
- Even though government regulations allow us to have 100 people in our sanctuary, we will limit our numbers to approximately 50 persons in each service. To help us plan, we ask that you phone into the office or email Diane before Friday, 12:00 pm, at email@example.com to let us know you are going to attend. In the happy event that our numbers are larger than 50, we may hold a second Service in the Auditorium later on Sunday mornings.
- As you come into the church, enter through the main doors and you will note arrows on the floor to guide you into the Sanctuary. En route, one of the greeters will have an electronic thermometer that will provide a quick temperature check. Another will ask for your name and telephone number as is common now in restaurants (this will allow for quick tracing in the event of a community COVID case). Yet another will show you to a seat in the Sanctuary.
- The seats in the sanctuary have been set out to allow families to sit together and others to physically distance themselves from those not within their household bubble.
- Washrooms are available to you and will be disinfected during the service.
- Arrows in the sanctuary will direct you also as you leave. Please keep a healthy distance from others as you exit via the north door, the east door, or the doors immediately to the east of the main doors (beside the main doors).
- If there are individuals whom you would like to talk to after the service, please try to do this outside in the open air if possible.
While, these protocols are perhaps annoying, they will help protect us and allow us to worship the Lord together in as safe a manner as possible. During the Service, we will hear the Word, pray, and hear some of our favourite hymns and songs each week. Unfortunately, we have been strongly advised not to engage in communal singing and since our congregation loves to sing, this will be a significant loss. Our Music Director, however, will have two vocalists helping him and we will be able to hum along to our favourite hymns. The key thing is, however, that we meet with God as we worship. Even if circumstances are not ideal, God is among us.
Additionally, be aware that we will not be offering the Sacrament of Holy Communion in person for the foreseeable future. We will continue to offer it, however, through our online services. Baptisms may be available in a small family service format, please speak to the ministers about baptism if one is sought or needed.
Be aware also that our ministers, The Dr. Rev. David McMaster and The Rev. Frank Hamper are available for pastoral care. Please call the office and they will arrange something to meet needs as they arise. Additionally, weddings and funerals are possible now in line with government guidelines.
Last week, the Management Team also affirmed its stance on not allowing outside groups to use the facility over the next few months. We simply do not have the staff or resources to disinfect everything each day in our usually, very-busy building.
Management has given a tentative green light for the Open Door Café to provide meals on Wednesdays. The Café will move to a take-out meal format and steps are now being taken by the ODC Coordinator, Janice Seaboyer, to see how we can do that safely. Possible re-opening is at the beginning of October.
These are interesting and challenging times for all of us and unfortunately everything is subject to change if the case numbers creep up. Please keep Eastminster – the community, its lay leaders, staff, and the ministers in your prayers as we seek to navigate these times. As we look ahead to the coming year, we will find that we will not be able to hold or be involved in many of our regular Church activities and programs – they are mostly of a communal nature which, for the time being, is inadvisable. In God’s good time, however, things will return to normal and we can look forward to that time.