As we approach Labour Day weekend, we are all aware that cases of COVID-19 are once again rising in Ontario. Due to this rise, the diocese will continue to follow the Reopening our Churches Step 3 guidelines for at least the month of September. The guidelines are available at the link below. I am asking all parishes to resume in-person worship effective September 12th. Some may prefer to continue to worship outside as long as the weather allows, some may prefer smaller services at a time other than Sunday morning. If a parish in a public health unit with a weekly COVID-19 case count of greater than 40 cases per 100,000 population wishes to request a later date for the return to in-person worship, the rector and wardens must seek permission from their Territorial Archdeacon, outlining the reasons for the request. The weekly case counts may be obtained here or directly from your public health unit.
As Christians, we welcome all in the name of Christ and so the diocese will not be requiring vaccinations for all persons attending worship. However, those in ministry leadership positions have been entrusted with responsibilities which include protection of the vulnerable. For this reason, the following people will now be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to serve in the Diocese of Huron during this pandemic.
All clergy who are presently in an appointment, interims, those who function as honorary assistants and who do supply
All Licensed Lay Readers
All liturgical leaders including, but not limited to, organists and choir directors, choristers, musicians, lectors, intercessors, Eucharistic Administrators, wardens, greeters and servers over 12 years of age
All Sunday School teachers and youth leaders
All pastoral visitors
To continue in these roles, all persons must have received their first dose of vaccine by September 30th and the second no later than October 31st.
Each parish will maintain a record of the lay persons in these roles with an indication that they have provided proof of vaccination. A trusted person in the parish is to be assigned to visually check each person’s vaccination confirmation and record the name of each person and the date of their second vaccination. The record is to be maintained securely in a locked file or password protected computer file. A warden, Safe Church Coordinator or parish nurse may be good choices for this role. A person may access their vaccination confirmation here. Once the new provincial system for verifying vaccination status is in place, parishes may use that system.
Clergy will provide proof of their vaccination to Ms. Jennifer McLaughlin firstname.lastname@example.org if you are uncomfortable sending a copy of the vaccine confirmation by email, please arrange to meet with Jennifer at Church House or by zoom so that she can visually confirm the document. The information will be kept in a locked file in the HR office. This will not become part of your permanent clergy file.
Those who are medically unable to be vaccinated must obtain a written doctor’s note exempting them from this vaccination requirement. They will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken less than 72 hours before the time they are scheduled to serve in their ministry role. Stipendiary clergy to whom this applies will be required to send to Jennifer proof of a negative COVID-19 test twice weekly. Those who have a Human Rights exemption from being vaccinated for COVID-19 are to contact Archdeacon Tanya Phibbs at email@example.com
All diocesan staff will also be required to be vaccinated by these deadlines. While we encourage the parishes to require this of any parish staff that are not in the categories above, that is a decision of the wardens to make as they are the employers.
Some people may feel that this policy goes too far, some will think it does not go far enough. I pray that it will strike a faithful and safe balance while we continue to gather and serve in this time. Please offer one another grace if there are disagreements, keeping each other in prayer and Christian love.
Yours in Christ,
The Right Reverend Todd Townshend
Bishop of Huron