COVID Restrictions Update – April 26, 2021
We all knew this day was coming. But foreknowledge doesn’t make its arrival any less bitter. The third wave has caught up to Manitoba and the government has seen fit to tighten the public health restrictions in response. You can always visit www.manitoba.ca/COVID19 to see the full statement on changes to the public health order, but I wanted to go over the changes that pertain to the activities of The Bridge Church and how we are moving to adapt in response to them.
Last week an initial series of changes were made to worship gatherings that moved us from a maximum of 100 people in the service (physically distanced by household) to a maximum of 50 with the same restrictions. As a result of those changes, we instituted a policy of required pre-registration for the Sunday service and decided to go farther than the order required as it pertained to continued mask-wearing in the service. This past Sunday was the first (and only as it would turn out) week under those new restrictions and things went fairly smoothly. Almost everyone who came to the service had pre-registered and there was enough room for the small number of people who forgot so that we comfortably fit under the limits imposed by the government.
Last week, the Board of Elders also met and had a fulsome discussion about what thresholds of restrictions we could endure before it made more sense to transition the congregation back to an online-only format again. We discussed three separate factors that would trigger a return to online church. 1.) A restriction to gathering that would exclude more people than it would admit—creating an inequity among those who wanted to attend in-person worship services; 2.) a restriction to gathering that would render the purpose of gathering moot by being so small as to not allow much more than the people putting on the service and their immediate households to attend; and 3.) A worsening of the situation in the public absent of any restrictions that would have an increasing number of people self-select to attend church online. In any of those three scenarios, there is a threshold where it was determined that persisting in hosting an in-person worship service was not worth it, and that the more prudent course of action would be a shift back to online church.
With the announcements made today by our Premier and Chief Public Health Officer, we have crossed the threshold for at least two of those three metrics and so we have decided to move fully online until the restrictions reverse.
The new Public Health Orders, which go into effect on Wednesday April 28, limit religious gatherings to 25% of normal capacity or 10 persons (whichever is LESS). It is our determination that this not a capacity at which we are comfortable hosting an in-person worship service. The orders as presented expire in four weeks, but as always are subject to extension if deemed necessary, this means that we will be online for at least four consecutive Sundays or until May 23. Which would make the earliest that we could return to in-person worship Sunday May 30.
We know that this is not what any of us had hoped for. We know that with rising vaccination rates that we were optimistic that we had seen the last of the lockdowns and were on the path to slowly increasing our capacity until things would return to equilibrium in whatever a post-pandemic “normal” would look like. But it appears we will have to wait a little longer. I’m sorry it’s come to this, but I continue to trust that the one who holds the stars in the sky, who spoke the world into existence, and who is faithful in his promises to bring his kingdom of redemption and mercy to fullness even in the world we live in now—that he will keep his promise that nothing, not even the gates of Hades, can come against his Church and the plans and purposes he has for it. We have made it through two lockdowns already and we are still here. We will make it through this third (and God-willing, final) lockdown as well.
Keep praying, keep doing good, keep seeking Jesus and we will see you online.