Close up image of empty church pews

This Version Posted: May 13, 2021

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Current Situation

Ontario is extending its State of Emergency and Stay-at-Home Order until at least June 2. Under these measures, places of worship are affected as there are reduced limits in place for religious services, weddings and funerals. Specifically:

  • No more than 10 people are allowed to gather indoors or outdoors for weddings, funerals and religious services. Physical distancing must be maintained, and attendees must wear masks or face coverings.
  • Social gatherings associated with these services (such as receptions) are not allowed, except for members of the same household.
  • Virtual services are permitted — and may be the best option at this time.
  • Drive-in services, are permitted.

Protect the health and safety of your members and congregants by taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Read on for further information and resources, including the Health Unit’s COVID-19 Guidance for Reopening Places of Worship. You can also click here for specific Guidelines on Health and Safety for Places of Worship During COVID-19 from Workplace Safety and Prevention Services.


Use of Non-Medical Masks Face Coverings During Religious Services

Everyone must wear a mask at all times when indoors attending a place of worship. The only exceptions are anyone who:

  • Is younger than two years of age;
  • Has a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering
  • Is unable to put on or remove a mask or face covering without help from another person.
  • Needs to temporarily remove their mask or face covering while in the indoor area, as it may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety.
  • Is being reasonably accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005).
  • Performs work for the business or organization, is in an area that is not accessible to members of the public, and is able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres (6 feet) from every other person while in the indoor area.

This last point may allow priests, ministers or other worship leaders to remove their mask during the mass (or service) when preaching to the congregation from a lectern or pulpit, so long as the area is separated by at least four metres from other people.

The priest, minister or worship leader must wear a mask when greeting people as they come in or leave the place of worship, and during communion.

A place of worship should consult with its local police service or municipal bylaw enforcement, as they may have a different interpretation and require a priest, minister or worship leader to wear a mask at all times.


Weddings and Funerals

As of 12:01 am on April 19, the following new measures apply to weddings and funerals:

  • No more than 10 people are allowed to gather indoors or outdoors for weddings and funerals. Physical distancing must be maintained, and attendees must wear masks or face coverings.
  • Social gatherings associated with these services (such as receptions) are not allowed, except for members of the same household.
  • Drive-in services, are permitted.

General COVID-19 Preventive Tips for Places of Worship
  • Maintain physical distancing by staying two metres (six feet) apart at all times.
  • Anyone who is feeling sick must stay home and not attend a service.
  • Encourage everyone to wash their hands. Ensure hand-cleaning stations and alcohol-based sanitizer dispensers are available at entrances to your place of worship. 
  • Ensure everyone wears a mask or face covering at all times, including when seated during the worship service.
  • Do NOT shake hands or hug.  
  • Remind people to cough/sneeze into their sleeves. 
  • Discourage group singing. Use audio or video recordings instead.
  • Review the sharing of items during special religious sacraments/rites, at least while COVID-19 continues to circulate. You may want to consult further with your parish/diocese/denomination/national body. 
  • Maintain a clean and safe space through regular cleaning and disinfecting. High-touch surfaces should be cleaned twice a day or following each service (whichever is more frequent).
  • Have a traffic flow plan in place, such as one-way enter/one-way exit.
  • Encourage members/parishioners who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 (including those over age 70 and people with compromised immune systems) to take part in virtual services or hold a dedicated service solely for this group.
  • Consider keeping a record of all attendees for contact tracing in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Stay Connected to Members/Congregants in Other Ways
  • Encourage members/congregants to only go out for essentials (like groceries or prescriptions)
  • Continue to offer virtual or live-streamed services
  • Keep in touch by phone or via social media/email/text. Share credible information – like what’s on this website on how people can protect themselves from COVID-19. 
Additional Resources:

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