This afternoon Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix hosted a news briefing outlining new Public Health Orders that include updated Government guidelines for Faith Communities. Some of these included the following:
- As of November 19th, indoor worship events and social gatherings of any size will no longer be allowed throughout British Columbia.
- These Public Health Orders are in effect until December 7, 2020.
- Those who are working in church offices who are able to work from home are encouraged to work from home until at least the new year.
- Essential meetings such as 12-step recovery programs and mental health support meetings may continue with groups under 10 persons and using appropriate Covid protocols.
- Dr. Henry made it clear that she is shutting down events but not shutting down buildings.
- Daycare and after school programs are considered essential services.
- Outdoor church events (not social gatherings) with appropriate Covid precautions can go ahead…(eg. Drive-thru Christmas etc.)
- Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals are restricted to family members only and the 10-person maximum guideline also applies. No reception gatherings are allowed.
- Masks are mandatory for all indoor public spaces.
- Travel should be limited and restricted to essential travel only.
What does this mean? It seems clear that we will have to pivot back to online worship services for the next month at least. Recording and streaming services and worship etc. online would be essential for the church community. Personnel used for production and participation in these online recordings are permitted onsite - to the 10-person maximum guideline.
If your church is offering midweek gatherings of 10 or less where meeting in person is essential because of an evident health and wellbeing concern, then these gatherings are allowed. Many would say that loneliness and lack of fellowship are serious health concerns for many people. Dr. Henry made it clear that only small gatherings to address addictions and mental health issues are permitted.