Grace and peace be with you all.
On Monday, June 8, the premier announced that places of worship could gather once again. On Tuesday, June 9, at the congregational council meeting, the members talked about opening the church to in-person worship, as was permitted by the province.
While it is legal to open for worship, the question is, should we?
The same day the province announced its Phase 2 plans, ELCIC Eastern Synod Bishop, Michael Pryse, issued a letter strongly recommending that the congregations in the synod remain closed until at least September. This followed on the heels of the same action being taken by the Anglican Churches in Ontario. Bishop Pryse writes, “For almost three months now we have been physically distancing from one another for the love of our neighbour. That same motivation needs to be paramount as we plan for the future. I encourage you to use these coming months as an opportunity to plan and put in place comprehensive plans for what in-person worship will look like once we have decided that it is both prudent and safe to physically gather in our church buildings once again. It is my intention to provide our rostered and congregational leaders with resources to help in that process in the coming weeks.”
The council of Augsburg has chosen to follow the Bishop’s recommendations, and has decided that Augsburg will remain closed until September, after Labour Day, at the earliest.
We will use the summer months to put together a task force to develop policies and procedures so that when we do reopen it will be as safe as we can possibly make it. But worship will not be what we are used to. An idea of just some of the ways in-person worship may be different is that there will not be any singing, face masks will be required and of course, physical distance will be maintained. All the policies and protocols will be communicated with you before we resume in-person worship.
I’m sure this is disappointing news for some, as it is for council, but our main concern is to keep Augsburg members safe and healthy. Taking the time to do things correctly is the right thing to do. As one council member communicated to me: “I can’t even imagine the guilt and grief I would feel if I, even accidentally and without knowledge, passed something on to another member.”
So, yes, the building will remain closed for now, however, the recorded worship services will still be offered, virtual coffee fellowship invitations will still be extended and we, as individual members, will still connect with each other.
As always, if you have any comments or questions, or if you just want to talk, please feel free to contact me, leave a message on the church phone, or contact any of the council members.
May the Holy Spirit continue to bless us with faith, hope and patience as we find the best way forward.
Pastor Nadine Nicholds,
on behalf of the congregational council of Augsburg