We are here to walk with you as you do ministry during COVID and we’ve created this page to equip you with resources and guidance for recovering and restarting in-person gatherings.
We recognize how difficult this has been for our churches and leaders. Since early March 2020, we’ve all felt like we’re in uncharted territory. As the CBAC, we share that sentiment, and we want to have a posture of helping you decide what’s best for your ministry. We cannot mandate what you do as a church—this page is simply a set of recommendations based on the best knowledge we have.
Permitted and wise—both of these conditions need to be met for you to enter the process of gathering together again.
In the conversation around “closing” churches and then re-opening our in-person gatherings, there has been some concern about government overreach. We do not feel this is the case, and we strongly echo the voices from the worldwide Church: we never closed. We simply had to change the way we did things because of the health and safety of the people in our congregations and wider neighbourhoods.
Please consider the following four principles for your re-opening process:
- Slower is better. Hurry is risky. While people are longing for community, they generally are wary and fearful of large gatherings. Show empathy.
- Stay one step behind the government and our neighbourhoods. We want to be fully honouring and respectful of authority—but this doesn’t mean we must re-open before we’re ready. Please do not act hastily and become the centre of a new outbreak. Consider waiting a period of time after it becomes permitted to gather in person again. Consider setting even tighter restrictions on physical distancing and hygiene.
- Use protocols to foster a deep sense of safety. In light of what retail businesses and other public places have done to increase sanitation and safety, churches need to invest time and resources in this as well.
- Senior adults and immunocompromised people will (and should) be slow to return to larger gatherings. What will it mean to minister to them? Do you need to continue practices from the fully-remote ministry you have been doing?
Table of Contents
- The Big Picture
- Practices We Recommend Keeping, Even If Not Required
- Provincial government restrictions and re-opening guidelines
- Your written operational plan for re-opening
- Practical Questions and our recommendations
The Big Picture: This is a moment of opportunity
Don’t miss the opportunity of this current moment: you can reshape. You can join God in your neighbourhood in a new way. You can work in partnership with your team, other churches, your association, and your denomination. Don’t miss it!
Ask these VISION questions as a church:
- If we move from “house church” to in-person services, how will our congregation feel?
- Is it wise or risky to gather in person in our church facility?
- How will our in-person gatherings be welcoming to our neighbourhood?
- How should childcare, children’s ministry, and youth ministry change?
- How will we grow and maintain community and fellowship?
- How is our wider neighbourhood doing? Are we responding to their needs?
- Will multiple gatherings become part of our congregation’s DNA moving forward?
- Could “home churches” or other expressions of church be legitimate church gatherings, tethered to our larger congregation?
- What does online ministry look like for our church now? Was it a tool to “fill the gap” during COVID? Or is it a tool to embrace going forward?
- What have we learned about online and automated giving that can serve us well from now on?
- What practices from pre-COVID should we stop doing? What have we started that we can’t stop doing?
- If there are people in our congregations that we haven’t seen in a while, how can we lovingly reach out to care for them?
Practices We Recommend Keeping, Even If Not Required
As the provincial governments in Atlantic Canada prepare to lift restrictions related to COVID-19
- Keep the floor arrow stickers to direct traffic in your facility
- Encourage your congregation to ask permission from each other before hugging or shaking hands
- Take extra precautions with indoor ventilation (opening windows, air exchange systems, etc.)
- Use outdoor spaces for social mingling as much as possible
- Remind people that it’s more than okay to continue wearing masks
- Remind people to stay home if they have any symptoms
- If contact tracing requirements are still in place, make sure you are following your provincial guidelines on how to collect (and subsequently destroy) the contact information properly.
- Even after contact tracing is no longer required, it may still be a good idea to ask for a name and phone number for everyone who enters the facility. We know of some churches that are asking their congregation, going forward, to personally keep track of the dates that they are onsite at the church facility.
- Communicate on a regular basis with your congregation about any changes to protocols, expectations, and plans. The more everyone knows about what COVID prevention measures are in place, the more comfortable the congregation will be.
- Communicate clearly on your church’s website and social media pages what someone could expect if they attend an in person gathering. What would a visitor need to know about masks, distancing, etc., when they enter your facility?
Provincial government restrictions and re-opening guidelines
Provincial government restrictions and guidance
As of March 14th, there are no provincial public health restrictions.
As of March 14th, there are no provincial public health restrictions.
As of March 21st, 2022, phase 3 of public health changes takes effect; there are no provincial public health restrictions.
As of March 17th, 2022, the province is at Step 2 of reopening:
- Mask requirements must continue to be followed.
- Spectators and attendees permitted up to 75% capacity; organizers required to maximize use of space to allow for as much physical distancing as possible
- Capacity is the standard operating capacity of the facility (e.g. pre-COVID capacity)
- Staff and officiants are excluded from the 75% limit.
- Congregational singing with masks is permitted
- Information on masking for performers is in the guidance for wearing masks in the community.
- People must be seated to eat and drink. If a standing reception – see guidance specific to standing receptions.
- There is no requirement for records for contact tracing for organized gatherings.
Practical Questions and Our Recommendations
Childcare, Children’s Ministry, and Youth Ministry
In NB, NFLD, and NS, do participants in our children & youth ministries need to wear masks?
As per provincial guidelines, all public buildings require the wearing of masks. While schools and daycares may have exceptions that allow students to not always wear a mask, churches do not fall into those categories.
Remember: these recommendations are our best understanding and not to be taken as legal advice.