Dear People of the Diocese of New Westminster
“I wait for you, O Lord; my soul waits for you;
in your word is my hope.
My soul waits for you, O Lord,
more than sentinels for the morning,
more than sentinels for the morning.”
We are, it seems, all about waiting these days. Waiting for news from family, friends, our government officials. Waiting for a time when things will return to some version of normal. Waiting for a vaccine or a treatment that makes life feel safe again.
As the Psalmist reminds us, the People of God are well-acquainted with waiting. Waiting for healing. Waiting for peace and justice. Waiting for a palpable sense of the presence of God. Waiting for a time of restoration and return.
By now, many of you have heard that Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer, has given permission for churches and other communities of faith to open back up for limited in-person gatherings after May 19. This permission is conditional upon their following physical distancing and other requirements. I write to clarify and inform you about what the churches in the Diocese of New Westminster will be doing.
First, our churches will be eligible to re-open to limited in-person gatherings subject to physical distancing and other requirements on Sunday, June 14.
Secondly, any church that chooses to re-open that day will need to submit an application to do so by the end of the day Thursday, June 4 (ten days in advance of re-opening), though we would be happy to accept your application earlier.
The questionnaire/application and all relevant requirements and recommendations for re-opening will be a part of “The Re-opening of Churches in the Diocese of New Westminster,” a comprehensive phased plan that will be distributed to the Diocese by Wednesday, May 20. On Thursday, May 21, priests-in-charge have been invited to a webinar via Zoom to discuss the content of the plan and ask questions. Applications will be reviewed, and the results communicated to parish leadership as quickly as possible, in order to allow time to prepare for in-person worship on Sunday, June 14.
Finally, please know that no church MUST re-open on June 14. Rather, the leadership of each parish should carefully read through the document referenced above, discuss the pros and cons of opening in a limited way at this time, review the questionnaire/application and decide whether or not to submit an application to re-open for in-person gathering at this time.
You are all in my prayers and in the prayers of the Synod Office staff as we potentially enter a new time, and as parish leaders make decisions for the health, safety, and welfare of the people of the Diocese.
Loving God, grant your parish leaders the wisdom to discern the path ahead for their churches during this time. Guide their discussions. Support them as they explore what may be best. Reassure them of your loving presence. And in all they say and do, give them that peace that only you can give.
In the name of Christ. AMEN
With love and respect,
In Christ, Archbishop Melissa