Dear St. John’s,
Three weeks ago, we made the difficult decision to shut down all in-person worship in the Diocese of Toronto for the remainder of January in response to the unprecedented number of Omicron infections in Ontario. This action was taken in solidarity with the rest of society, including other essential services such as schools, to help stem the rate of infection and protect our fragile health-care system from being overwhelmed. We’re grateful for your understanding and participation as we have worshipped online over the past few weeks.
After prayerful deliberation and consultation, we have determined that as of February 1, 2022, the Diocese of Toronto will return to the “local option”: those parishes who wish to re-open for in-person worship may do so using our Amber Stage Guidelines. Those parishes who wish to continue worshipping online are commended for making that safe and responsible choice.
If your parish would like to re-open, please inform your Regional Dean before doing so. Please note:
Under our most recent Amber Stage Guidelines, updated just before Christmas, all persons present must be masked, regardless of role.
Attendance is limited to that which can be accommodated with physical distancing, up to 50% of total capacity.
It is highly recommended that singing be kept to a minimum.
There can be no vaccine mandate for regularly scheduled Sunday morning services. Additional services, including weddings and funerals, may impose restricted access for attendance if it is pastorally appropriate or desired by the family involved.
Absolutely no one is obliged to re-open or to attend in-person worship if they don’t feel it’s safe to do so. This includes our clergy. If you are a priest or deacon who is feeling pressure to act against your better judgement or in a way that feels unsafe, speak to your bishop. We will support you.
We’re all tired of the revolving door of opening and closing restrictions. As a Church, we want to slowly build back up to a place of full strength, and to that end we’re making our decisions cautiously and prudently. We know that local leaders are facing these same challenges. We can draw comfort from the experience of the early Church, whose members knew that gathering together carried an element of risk, yet believed that it was a worthwhile risk – not a foolish risk. We take this risk with utmost caution and care, confident in God’s great love and providence for the Church as we seek to serve and worship the crucified and risen Christ.
We as your bishops will be praying for each and every parish as you make choices that are right for your community. We are available to consult if you wish to speak with us on these matters.
Yours in Christ,
The College of Bishops