NEWS FROM ST PAUL'S CHURCH COUNCIL

Your church council gathered on Zoom on Wednesday, May 20, for a meeting which focused primarily on our church’s current closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and on how and whether the BC Government’s “Phase 2” might affect that closure in the near future.

 

We took into account the May 15, 2020, advice from the United Church of Canada, Pacific Mountain Region, set out in a document entitled “Pandemic Recovery & In-Person Ministry (Re)Launch.”  https://pacificmountain.ca/wordpress2017/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/PMRC-Reopening-Churches-During-COVID19-Discernment-and-Guidelines.pdf

We are still in Stage 1 of the UCC’s overall plan, which mandates that “worship is still online only, with some exceptions for outdoor worship or small group worship.”

In addition, we consulted the BC Government’s document entitled “Covid-19 Guidance to Faith-Based Organizations.”  https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/covid-19/covid-19-pho-guidance-faith-based-organizations.pdf

Our province is currently moving into BC’s Phase 2, in which “no public gatherings or events of more than 50 people may take place,” and in which faith-based organizations like our church have been urged “to support clergy, workers, congregation members, families and visits in staying safe and healthy.”

Council used a working document developed by our Chair, designed to assist us in developing a framework for decision-making, taking into account not only the two documents referred to above, but also our shared values and principles as a long-established community of faith.  It identified many of the areas we will have to consider, along with some decision options and some of their potential effects.  The council members all studied the document prior to the meeting, which meant that we had all done a good deal of thinking about the issues beforehand.  Our ensuing discussions were heartfelt, soul-searching and quite detailed.  

At the end of these careful discussions, council made a considered decision.  We felt that it is too soon in Phase 2 of the Provincial Government’s Restart Plan to re-open our church building to our renters or to our congregation for regular church services.  We do not yet know whether the initial re-openings of businesses and other organizations in Phase 2 will result in an increased number of Covid cases, or in a major “second wave” as anticipated by some, or whether it will prove to be a great success.  Our congregation is an older one, which puts many of us in a higher risk category for infection. We therefore decided not to re-open our church building at all until September 1, 2020 at the earliest, with one exception.  That exception is for memorial services, which will be kept below the BC Government’s maximum number of participants, and which would permit only immediate family participation in accordance with all government-mandated precautions.  These services will not include any gathering with refreshments afterwards on our premises.

This means, of course, that we will all be attending services either online or by phone until at least Labour Day, and perhaps beyond that, depending on how things go over the summer.  We would all love to gather together in our beloved sanctuary with our cherished fellow congregants, embracing and singing our hearts out together.  This scenario, very sadly, is one that will almost certainly take us a long time to re-experience.  

 

In the meantime, we will have to rely on our shared faith, on our optimism that things will turn out well in the end, and on the considerable and extensive efforts of our church staff and volunteers who provide us all with opportunities to worship and to gather together virtually, as well as keeping our physical plant running and our various administrative responsibilities upheld.  In particular, our remarkable minister, Rev. Suzanna, has been putting forth tremendous efforts at providing us with high quality online services, ongoing pastoral support, and constant administrative wisdom and advice.  Your council wishes to acknowledge and thank Rev. Suzanna from the bottom of our hearts.  We couldn’t have a more dedicated spiritual leader at this very difficult time. 

Fiona St Clair

Chair, Church Council

St Paul's United Church, 2410 Malaview Avenue, Sidney, BC, V8L 2G4

Tel: 250-656-3213

E-mail: stpauluc@telus.net