The diocese has introduced a policy that requires clergy, diocesan employees and volunteers and parish employees and volunteers, to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
In a pastoral letter to the diocese in September, Bishop Andrew Asbil said the policy is grounded in Jesus’s commandment to love your neighbour as yourself.
“There is one crucial way we can love our neighbours, and that is to vaccinate ourselves against COVID-19,” he wrote. “For the good of our whole community, we can choose to protect those who can’t be vaccinated and those for whom this virus poses the greatest risk. We can protect front-line workers from a health care system overwhelmed by new cases.”
Effective Sept. 30, 2021, any employee, member of the clergy or volunteer who attends at a workplace must show proof of being vaccinated with two doses of a vaccine or combination of vaccines approved by Health Canada, with the second dose having been administered at least two weeks prior to the in-person attendance.
Parishes are also expected to post the policy in a public place so that all members of the parish community are aware of it. Churchwardens are to ensure that other organizations functioning on parish property are also aware of it.
The policy does not require proof of vaccination to attend worship. Bishop Asbil said in his letter that the bishops and leadership of the diocese made that decision after much discussion.
“I’ve heard that some of you aren’t comfortable returning to in-person worship alongside potentially unvaccinated people, and I know this may disappoint you,” he wrote. “We believe we can preserve the health and safety of our communities without denying access to worship, prayer and sacrament. We want our churches to be places where everyone can experience the breadth and length and depth and height of God’s love, and we hesitate to bar our doors based on proof of vaccination.
“We continue to strongly recommend vaccination for all who are able. Parishes will continue with screening questions, contact tracing and vaccine education, along with rigorous hygiene practices, masking and physical distancing. In the strongest terms possible, I dissuade anyone from knowingly putting others at risk. Before you decide to attend worship, consider how your decisions may affect the person sitting in the next pew.”
He said many parishes are continuing to provide online worship options as they re-open their doors. “If you don’t yet feel safe coming to church in person, please know that you are a full and valued participant in our corporate worship if you choose to attend online, even if it is not your first preference.”
He concluded, “We don’t make these decisions lightly, but we make them in the hope that our churches will continue to be places where we can join together safely to worship a God who calls us to love every neighbour, in every place, following the model set before us in Jesus Christ.”
For the full pastoral letter and policy, visit the diocese’s website, www.toronto.anglican.ca.