Close up image of empty church pews

This Version Posted: July 13, 2021

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Current Situation

NOTE: As of 12:01 am on Friday (July 16), Ontario will move into Step Three of its reopening plan. For places of worship, the move to Step Three means larger gathering limits for indoor religious services, weddings and funerals. Here are the key points under Step Three:

  • Indoor and outdoor weddings, funerals and religious services are allowed.
  • Capacity at these services is limited to the number of people who can distance at least two metres.
  • Whether indoors or outdoors, attendees must stay 2 metres apart from each other, except if they live in the same household
  • Masks/face coverings must be worn inside when you are within 2 metres of another person who is not part of their household. Mask use is also recommended outdoors if you cannot stay 2 metres apart from someone outside your household
  • Drive-in services, rites or ceremonies can still be offered
  • Consider livestreaming services for those who are unable or do not feel comfortable attending in-person
  • Receptions are permitted, with up to 25 people indoors and a maximum of 100 people outdoors

Read on for additional ways to protect the health and safety of your members and congregants by taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Vaccination
  • Encourage members to get both doses of their COVID-19 vaccines, so they are fully protected against the virus.
  • Consider helping members arrange a vaccination, especially if they find it challenging or difficult to navigate their way to get a dose. Click here for COVID-19 vaccination clinic information in the area.

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 July 16, the following measures apply to weddings and funerals:

  • Indoor and outdoor weddings, funerals and religious services are allowed.
  • Capacity at these services is limited to the number of people who can distance at least two metres.
  • Receptions are permitted, with up to 25 people indoors and a maximum of 100 people outdoors.
  • Mask use and physical distancing rules apply.
  • Drive-in services, rites or ceremonies are permitted, with certain conditions
  • Virtual services are allowed

General COVID-19 Preventive Tips for Places of Worship
  • Encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 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
  • Continue to offer virtual or live-streamed services, especially for people who may still feel uncomfortable attending a service in-person.
  • 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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