Someone recently asked a church member when they expected their church to "re-open." They responded with, "I didn't know it was closed!"
Just because doors of a building are locked doesn't mean we're closed. Over the days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been forcefully reminded that "the Church" is not the building.
"The response of the Cathedral to the reminder that our financial commitments remain, even during a pandemic, is very encouraging and to be commended," said Dean Hall. "Many if not most of our usual ministries continue and there are many in new forms and disguises. We continue to be the Church and the financial support of our membership to the on-going ministry of the Cathedral needs to be recognized."
"While ceasing corporate worship and bringing in-person gatherings to a halt at Christ Church Cathedral was challenging," said Dean Geoffrey Hall, "re-opening and meeting new safety requirements is going to be the far more difficult task. We've learned many lessons along the way about how to be the Church even when not physically present to one another, and there are many lessons left to learn as we move towards what's often referred to as the new normal."
Following NB Health guidelines and implementing requirements and restrictions is going to need the co-operation of everybody. Summing up most of those requirements as they apply to the Cathedral is a detailed "operational plan" describing how we will proceed with gathering. The organization and the safeguards that will be in place need to be documented and understood.
What might be most challenging for us all is what the "new normal" is going to look like. Some of us are eager to return to gathering but at the same time, we need to be very conscious of keeping everyone as safe as possible. Physical distance and number maximums are going to introduce challenging aspects needing our full attention. No corporate singing, sharing of food (or hugs), or socializing, is going to make "church" look and feel very different. And, it's all still changing rapidly making the need to stay in step with what health authorities are telling us imperative.
We're not in any rush to open things up.
Among the changes we can expect are: the need to reserve for worship attendance, screening procedures upon entrance, directed seating, face masks, no corporate singing, and closely followed protocols around the administration and making of Communion.
"None of this is outside of our capability," said Dean Hall. "It's just going to need to be well planned, administered and maintained. We're not in any rush to open things up. We'll do it when we're ready, when we're confident we can minimize risk and can assure the safety of all."
Part of that process is creating the detailed "operational plan" required to be on-site should the gathering be monitored by Provincial officials. We need to be able to illustrate that we have carefully planned and be able to account for the circumstances under which we gather, the implementation of safeguards, procedures and restrictions.
"The current lifting of restrictions for religious gatherings by NB Health (up to 50 indoors) is very generous," said the Dean. "We need to receive that gift with all manner of seriousness."
A task group has been at work over the last several weeks considering the details of the "operational plan." That group includes Wayne Burley, Catherine MacDonald, Kathleen Snow, Thomas Gonder, Mike Tool and the Dean of Fredericton. It's a document that will be ever-changing and adjusted. The most recent version will be at the same link on the Cathedral website.
"We need to express our thanks to these individuals so willing to put the time and effort into the planning needed on our behalf," said the Dean. "There will be need for volunteers for all sorts and descriptions of the new and necessary. Even what we've "always done" may need to be done differently. Please consider saying 'yes' to requests for help."
The operational plan is very close to completion (current version here) but decisions are still being considered and nothing is carved in stone. Information should be available this week regarding our way forward.