Through the Advent and Christmas seasons, Bishop Stephen has been in contact with clergy about the diocesan response to the “omicron wave” of COVID-19. Though daily case numbers have been very high, there is some encouragement in the fact that the number of people in hospital and ICU has not peaked in the same way as in previous waves. Also encouraging is that parishes have learned very well over the past two years how to keep their church families safe through following COVID-19 protocols and providing online options. For these reasons, the Bishop has asked parishes to be prepared, should it be necessary, to go completely online. However, in the meantime, he has permitted parishes to make choices that are right for their own situations, also known as the “local option.”
Bishop Steve will continue to monitor available information and government updates, especially watching case numbers, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions, as we approach the period about two weeks after Christmas and New Year. The Bishop will communicate to the clergy any changes to the diocesan policy if needed.
In the meantime, please read below an excerpt from a letter to clergy, which includes words of encouragement for all in the diocese:
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ!
I write to clarify the diocese’s COVID-19 policy…
None of us wanted to observe Christmas under COVID-19 restrictions. But as we pray through this time, it is worth reflecting on what our spiritual tradition teaches us. When there are events and life circumstances we cannot change, it is important to “listen” deeply. What I mean is that we pay close attention to the events, conversations, encounters happening to us and around us, and we pay close attention to the emotions of our hearts. Do we find ourselves frustrated, angry, anxious, tired, impatient and so on? We don’t start by judging the emotions as good or bad. That is discerned later. First, we need to ask what they are teaching us. It is important to have someone you can talk to about this. Please talk to your priest, or a spiritual director, or a trusted mature friend. Pray with them. Getting through this time is hard. We need to support one another.
Second, we ask Christ what opportunities are here for us to live out the Gospel. The Gospel is a way of life that will grow and bring some form of blessing in any and all circumstances. COVID may frustrate some parts of our Gospel life, but it opens opportunities in other ways. We need to be attentive to where Christ is calling us in the messiness of this time.
Because of our commitment to love our neighbours as ourselves, our diocese is committed to creating safe worship spaces by following the government guidelines.
The diocesan guidelines that we issued on September 16, 2021 are still in effect:
I want to say thank you for your perseverance and resilience during this difficult time. You are a blessing to your communities in which you pray and serve.
Bishop Stephen London