COVID-19 Update – May 19

by Fiona Watts

As our province begins with Phase 2 of BC’s ReStart Plan, we are beginning to shape a way forward in what will undoubtedly be a new normal for West Vancouver United Church. We are following the protocols outlined in our province’s restart plan (gov.bc.ca/restartbc) as well as guidelines provided by the Pacific Mountain Regional Council of The United Church of Canada (PMRC Guidelines). 

As we move forward, we are prioritizing:

  1. Doing all that we can to keep our community healthy and safe
  2. Making decisions based on what we need to do rather than what we want to do
  3. Being able to pivot and make changes in response to emerging understanding and best practices in responding to COVID-19
  4. Looking for creative ways to worship, work, and gather together

Our Building
Groups who typically use our building throughout the course of the week have begun making inquiries about what our plans are for reopening our facility. Our first step is to determine what kinds of gatherings, of under 50 people, we can accommodate within the constraints of our space while still maintaining required social distancing. We are in the process of putting together protocols for what we can accommodate in each of the spaces in our building including what we can do with respect to “traffic flow” in our hallways and access to washrooms.

Deep cleaning will be required following each gathering that happens in a particular space and this will need to be factored into how much of our space we can open up and to what degree.

Our Worship Services
We miss worshipping together in person on Sunday mornings! It is also becoming clear that we will not be able to return to worship, as we are used to, for a long time. 

The United Church of Canada (UCC) has developed guidelines for a three-stage plan to reopen church spaces. We are currently in Phase 1 and expect to continue to be for the next few months. Phase 1 allows for small groups to meet in the building. Worship continues online with some exceptions for outdoor worship. People over 60 years old, those with underlying medical conditions that have weakened immune systems, and those who have family members at home who are vulnerable are encouraged to participate only in online activities.

Phase 2 of the UCC guidelines allows for limited return to in-person worship subject to public health directives and group sizes limited to less than 50 people.  Congregational singing is not permitted and those in higher-risk groups will continue to worship online only. 

Phase 3 allows for full return to in-person worship. This will be considered in keeping with BC Public Health and Safety Guidelines; conditional on wide vaccination, “community” immunity, or broad successful treatments for COVID-19 being available. As it will be some time until one of these conditions is met, at this point, we are expecting that online worship services will need to be our priority for at least the balance of 2020. However, we also recognize that new developments are continually emerging and so we are holding this expectation lightly, ready to shift our planning in whatever ways make sense for our faith community as a whole. 

Community is a central aspect of our faith, and so naturally, we long to be together again. Until it is prudent to do so as a large gathering, we will be looking to offer some new and creative ways to gather in smaller groups at various times throughout the week.

This is uncharted territory. Some of us are relieved that the restrictions placed on how we have been living for the past few months are being gradually eased. Others are feeling anxious about what will happen as we begin to interact in person again. As we find our way forward, please be assured that how we respond to this ever-evolving situation will consider the wide variety of perspectives that make up our faith community.

These days, the world is longing for hope. As followers of Jesus, we know that God’s plans are bigger than anything that we can imagine and that God’s love will always encompass us.  Let’s continue to demonstrate the hope we have in God’s promises as we continue to be the church all over the North Shore and beyond.

With continued prayers for you all,      
Fiona Watts, Board Chairperson fwatts@wvuc.bc.ca
Rev. Philip Newman pnewman@wvuc.bc.ca
Rev. Simon LeSieur slesieur@wvuc.bc.ca 

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