To the saints of St. John the Evangelist and to our friends,

Peace to you amidst the tumult. 

After news reports yesterday, and much speculation, Premier Ford announced a province-wide lockdown effective at 12:01 am Saturday, December 26.  In consultation with advisors, public health representatives and senior staff, Bishop Parker issued the attached letter and is instructing all parishes in the Diocese of Ottawa to enter into the RED stage of our pandemic plan at that time and remain in that stage for 28 days or until further notice. 

In conversation with your wardens and deputy wardens, I am writing to announce that liturgies for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will proceed as scheduled, under our current AMBER protocols.  Pre-registration is strongly encouraged; masks are mandatory and we encourage everyone to observe the guidelines outlined in our Welcome Back brochure (available on the website).  We are encouraging you to attend only one liturgy of the four being offered (4pm, 7pm, 11pm December 24 and 10am December 25).  And while it will be very difficult at this time of year especially to refrain from chatting with friends or moving about the church to visit with people, please be extra disciplined about keeping physically distanced and staying within your own space.  A Christmas Eve liturgy will be broadcast on YouTube and Facebook for those who do not feel comfortable attending in person or who are more at risk of illness.  Check the parish website for the time of the broadcast.  Sunday worship starting December 27 will return to virtual format. 

As Bishop Parker writes in his letter, “our world needs loving care as we seek healing and wholeness at this time.”  We all need to do our part to restrict our close contacts and stem community spread.  Our hospitals are being stretched to the limit and our front-line health care workers are approaching exhaustion with the pace of increased cases requiring hospitalization.  We need to think of others even those we don’t know, whose lives are affected by this pandemic whether by contracting the virus, or having other health care needs postponed or put off because there is “no room at the inn” anymore.   

In the hymn In the Bleak Midwinter, the second verse is as follows:Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor the earth sustain; heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign.In the bleak mid-winter a stable place sufficed, the Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ. 

In poverty and vulnerability came our Saviour that holy night, the great little one whose all-embracing birth brings earth to heaven and stoops heaven to earth.  Jesus knows our needs.  Jesus knows our longings.  Jesus knows, as only someone who has lived with us knows.  All the powers of heaven could not restrain God from choosing to empty his very self into our very selves, so that we would know God is with us.   

We are entering the season of the Incarnation, the season that celebrates the gift of Emmanuel –  God with us.  God is with us.  In our anxiety, our frustration, our joys and our struggles.  Share that love with others in this season. By phone.  By video.  By letter.  In prayer.  Let them know God is with us, now in this mortal life, and forever.   

Christ’s peace and love be upon us all. Catherine+