Last week, the health officials of British Columbia announced the start of Step 3 of its reopening plan. On Wednesday, July 7th, 45 new cases of COVID-19 were reported, and vaccination rates continue a steady climb. This is good news for British Columbia!

The Step 3 guidelines for religious communities have shifted dramatically. One succinct line is all: 

“There are no capacity limits or restrictions on indoor or outdoor religious gatherings and worship services.”

Wait. Really? None? No limits, no restrictions?

Yes, that’s right. None.

As I have researched Step 3 and spoken with many of you over the past week, I’ve heard many different reactions and feelings expressed. Some of you are uncomfortable with these changes. Some of you are excited. There’s feelings of hesitancy, but also of openness. And often, there’s a mix of different reactions inside of us. I certainly feel that way.

I want to acknowledge that there will be a level of discomfort and awkwardness in this transition. It could be like a middle school dance (I surely hope not, but bear with my analogy). Where do I stand? Hand in my pockets? Arms crossed, leaning against the wall? Will someone ask me to shake hands? Hug? Dance? We have been instructed for 17 months to keep a safe distance from each other; physical distancing is now the norm. 

As we face another transition, I ask you to approach one another with thoughtfulness and respect. Everyone’s comfort levels will be different. I want you to know that whatever you are feeling, we are committed to making worship a space where you are welcome, safe, and invited to encounter the goodness of God.

Our Step 3 plan follows the same priorities we have held since the pandemic began:

  1. First, we will collaborate with our government, health authorities, and other churches to choose the best course of action.
  2. Second,we will pursue love, not fear—seeking to love our neighbour.
  3. Third, we will be creative in finding ways to remain connected to each other and our city.

Here is how we plan to collaborate, pursue love, and be creative for the duration of the summer.

Service time and location 

We will hold one 10:00 AM service at First Church of the Nazarene from this Sunday, July 11th until our fall launch in September. 

Why? Returning to one service is our normal summer cadence. And this year more than ever, we need to be together and worship in the same room (no breakout rooms, please). This service will continue to be live streamed every Sunday. 

UBC Robson Square has announced their official re-opening in early September. We plan to return to a newly renovated Robson Square for Sunday morning worship upon their opening.

Capacity limits, social distancing, and social interaction 

Our services will no longer have a capacity limit, so you will no longer need to register for services (except for St. Pete’s Kids). Just show up.

Once you’re there, you can come in and mingle, chat, and find a seat. We will not require socially distanced seating or traffic flow. You can turn around and say “hello!” to those around you, and after the service, you can greet someone you haven’t seen in…a while. We will not serve coffee or refreshments yet.

If this scenario seems too fast for you, we understand. We will have socially distanced seating in the balcony, which you can access from the lobby. You, too, can just show up. Once you’re there, come in and say “hello!” and head upstairs (we also have a spot for you saved if you can’t make it up stairs). After the service, you can head straight outside and chat with others as you feel comfortable.

Singing 

We will allow singing in the service. Scripture commands us to sing unto the Lord; we are excited to do this again together.

Masks

Public health guidelines continue to recommend wearing masks in indoor public spaces for those over 12 years of age who have not been fully vaccinated. As always, we ask you to follow public health guidelines. It is our goal to create a space that is hospitable for those who will continue to wear masks and those who do not.

Communion

We will continue offering cup and wafer packs for Communion.

St. Pete’s Kids

St. Pete’s Kids will continue to host a 9:15 AM Zoom service as well as an in-person service for children ages 2 and up, with a maximum of 10 children. Children must be registered in advance to attend St. Pete’s Kids in person. Unfortunately, we are not able to offer a nursery at this time. As always, contact Rachel (rwilkowski@stpf.ca) with any questions or concerns.

Sunday picnics at Sunnyside Park 

We have been a part of a long time and long to see one another. For Sundays in July and August, we will host a weekly informal picnic after the service. This will be at 11:30am at Sunnyside Park (2 blocks from the Naz, on the opposite side of Kingsway). 

Bring a blanket, your own lunch (there are a few easy take out places nearby), maybe a frisbee or spike ball set, and join us for a drop-in time to be together. All are welcome.

Our staff team is excited for this transition, and we are committed to caring for each of you through it. Please reach out to us if you have any questions and feel free to send feedback to us after you have attended a service.

Read more articles by Preston Gordon or about COVID-19.

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