COVID-19 Updates

Update #36a

Monday, August 10, 2020

Beloved congregation,

In the past days (Sunday excepted) we received a number of questions regarding the regulations from SW Public Health regarding the wearing of masks.

As was pointed out by a few, it was unclear whether these regulations were also pertaining the churches or not, since it spoke mostly about business. This could cause confusion.

Reason that the attached regulations were not published yet, was that the detailed outline for the churches was not finalized yet. It was only finalized August 7.

Based on the received questions, the consistory inquired about that on Saturday to the SW Public Health board, and received attached regulations with Frequently Asked Questions.

Herewith we send that to you to avoid all kinds of questions, misunderstandings and talk about what is mandatory and not mandatory.

May we kindly urge you all to respect one another’s view on these matters, whether we do wear a mask in church or not for a valid reason?
Let all those who are able to, give a good example and not cause the Lord’s Name to be dishonored.

Thank you to all those who complied with the regulations, although I’m sure no one of us really likes it.

Attachments:

Update #36

Friday, August 7, 2020

Kept in serious times

Beloved congregation, we live in serious times. The Corona Pandemic is far from over. In other places the virus is flaring up and some countries even speak about a second lock down. So far, the Lord has kept and spared us and placed a hedge round about us as congregation and families. Truly, in that regards there is much to be thankful for. Do we still see it? May we all be given to realize, that despite our sins and shortcomings, the Lord still allows His precious word to be heard every Sabbath Day. Later in this newsletter we will come back to that as the consistory will – on a trial basis (!)– try to have the entire congregation be able to attend church once each Sunday.

Township Council and SW Public Health

As you know, the South West Public Health Board has announced in the past weeks that masks need to be worn in all public places, including places of worship. This is for the health and safety of our families and community and will help minimize the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. As you also know, the consistory has in the past week sent a letter to the Township Council with the request to be exempt from wearing masks during our church service. However, the Township Mayor has let us know and issued a press release, that they do not have the authority under the current Health Act to override the regulations given by the Ontario Government and Public Health Board. This means that wearing of masks is officially in force as of this past Thursday.

Regulations and exemptions

The consistory has discussed this matter extensively at our meeting this week. After prayerfully considering all the details, the regulations, and exceptions, it was decided to encourage our members to use a mask when entering, exiting, and sitting in our church building. We need to abide by the law also in church, but if someone for health reasons or other valid reasons does not feel inclined to use the mask while sitting in church, that is a personal decision and responsibility. The consistory can only endorse the law, not enforce it. We realize that some may have conscientious objections against wearing a mask in church. Therefore, members with a medical condition (respiratory ailments, claustrophobia, panic or those with anxiety concerns or even young children under the age of 5) cannot be forced to use masks. Government guidelines state that the person does not have to provide a proof of this exemption. In the event you do not have a mask, there will be masks available at each entrance.

Opinions

We fully understand that there are strong and valid opinions on this matter. Some voices are strongly for it, others explicitly against it. However, we wish to make clear that the consistory considers this law involves the health and safety of our members and does not currently infringe upon our religious rights. Let us not forget that with the opening of stage 3, instead of being  allowed to meet with only 5 people, we now may have more than 500 people in church, a number which we had never expected. We ought to be thankful for what we have and that the Lord still allows us to gather in His house and hear His Word, for we have not deserved this. Therefore, we encourage all who are able, to come to church while this is still possible. Let not the wearing of a mask be the main reason to decide whether we will come under God’s Word or not.

Respect

We need to respect each other’s opinion and decision whether we use a mask in church or not, but our positive example when speaking about this matter in our families and community is very important. Let us be sober and thoughtful in our conversations towards each other, our community and government. The community around us hears what we say and do and is watching us with ‘binoculars’. Unfortunately, we do not always hear positive things on how we conduct ourselves towards officials and on social media. Let us not give in to Satan’s devices to create discord and strife. He loves it to set one up against the other so that God’s Name be greatly dishonored for our sake. And we are personally responsible if for our sake, God’s Name is blasphemed.

Authority

Matters of doctrine and life belong to the authority of the church. Therefore, we will continue singing with limited stanzas, since singing is an essential part of our worship services and clearly outlined in God’s Word. But the matter of wearing masks belongs to the authority of the municipal, provincial, and national government. Therefore, we believe that we are in duty bound to abide by it in these circumstances. Whether we agree with it or not, we are called to comply with it as much as possible. Therefore, we encourage you to do so, if possible. We have spoken to several congregations and churches in other locations who previously had to implement this similar ruling; and with the members’ full cooperation, it has gone well. Truly God’s judgements are upon the earth but let us use the time to seek the Lord while it is still the day of grace rather than having debates regarding wearing a mask.

Change in Future Church Services

Since the current regulations now speak about room capacity or building capacity, the consistory in the past weeks has also been reviewing how we can have our families attend church at least once per Sabbath. The consistory has approved that for two weeks (August 23 and August 30) on a trial basis, we would like half of the congregation to come in the morning and half in the evening. We think this can be accomplished by placing at least 150 additional chairs in the sanctuary in the Norwich church at the front and down the side isles. Based on the available seats in church in the past months, plus this additional seating, we are willing to try this and yet comply with the current approved guidelines of social distance and room capacity.

However, we all need to cooperate in this for this to work. We are requesting family members (like parents with children and married children or extended families that belong to the same social bubble) to all sit together in church so that we can fill complete benches from aisle to aisle. Please, discuss this with your family members so that you can all sit together. When you come to church and wait for each other, then the extended families can all be ushered in at the same time. In the event seating would be full, then any overflow would be able to go into the reading room, where the sound system works too. In Courtland we will also be placing additional chairs to ensure this also works there. For August 23 and August 30, the groups are as follows:

Norwich:
9.30 AM: the letters A – P

7.00 PM: the letters R – Z

Courtland:

9.30 AM: the letters A – N

7.00 PM: the letters O – Z

Summary

The number of Covid-19 cases in our South West Ontario region is increasing and we do not want to jeopardize the possibility to come to church. May we encourage all, in view of God’s Name and the wellbeing of one another, to comply with the regulations if you are able to. Let us pray for all that are in authority over us and not criticize them. We realize that wearing a mask can be inconvenient. But may we humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and deny ourselves also in this matter. The Lord says in His Word that if any of us lack wisdom, we may ask of Him who giveth liberally and upbraideth not. May He remember us all undeservedly in His mercy. We wish to thank you all for your continued support and prayers in the past weeks and months.

Your consistory

Our past updates have moved to a different page. To read them, click here.