The "New Normal" - What's Coming Next?

August 2021:

Church Re-Opening Plans

Where Two or More Are Vaccinated: Advice for Churches in 2021

Five science-based suggestions to gather and worship safely as COVID-19 vaccines roll out.

Explicitly stated or not, church leaders are balancing three factors when they consider church gathering during this pandemic: the need and desire of congregants to gather, the rate of COVID-19 infection in the community, and the risk of COVID-19 infection and complications among the church’s congregants. I created three figures to describe how these factors of churches gathering influence three vaccination periods:

Article from Christianity Today

July 2021: Anabaptist Worship Network Resources

How can we worship without singing - Anneli Loepp Thiessen

Anneli Loepp ThiessenAs churches across Canada and the United States gradually reopen their sanctuaries for corporate worship, questions emerge about the safety of congregational singing. For some communities, it has been decided that congregational singing is not a safe act of worship for the next few months, with the ongoing development and aftermath of COVID-19. The task of planning corporate, in person worship without singing can feel daunting, particularly for communities that experience congregational singing as the centre of worship. For many congregations, our singing has done the heavy lifting of praise, prayer, and connection. Perhaps this push not to sing can be viewed as a welcome nudge to broaden our practice of worship, to step away from busyness and enter into expansive space. Perhaps worshipping without singing is not a burden, but an opportunity to explore new ways of connecting with God and each other.
Read more from Anneli - includes some great ideas to get started...

Worship & Reopening Churches Webinar - May 2021

Listen in on a peer discussion across North America as congregations grapple with reopening to in-person meetings.

July 2021: Safe Space in light of COVID-19
Carol Penner - Special to Canadian Mennonite

two cartoon girls shaking handsHow do we create safe and healthy spaces together? Many churches think about safety in relation to sexual abuse, and have worked on safe space policies in that context. What does safe space mean in the light of COVID-19?

When government-mandated, physical-distancing sanctions ease, and churches start meeting in person again, our communities will need to negotiate boundaries about health. We won’t know who has had a vaccine, and who has not, or what people’s underlying health conditions might be. We won’t know who wants to maintain physical distancing.

Read Carol's Canadian Mennonite article.

June 2021: Vaccine Information from Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada

Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada have prepared a list of resources (videos, factsheets, and social media shareables) to assist community leaders as ambassadors in promoting vaccine confidence and sharing critical information on public health measures. Many of these resources are available in multiple languages. 

COVID-19 Vaccine Resources - You can help promote vaccine confidence in your community by sharing or making use of the following tools and resources: 

To sing, or not to sing...
There are no one-size-fits-all answers.

April 2021 - AnabaptistWorld

To sing, or not to sing, could be the question. To hum, or not to hum, could be another.

Last May, we at MennoMedia shared guidance from the Center for Congregational Song encouraging people to refrain from singing in person altogether due to the high risk for transmitting COVID-19 from singing.

With vaccination increasing, is it time to change our tune and encourage singing again? Or to stay the course?

Read more here from MennoMedia USA

January 2021: Ontario Stay-At-Home Order

Ontario Stay At Home Order January 2021         Enhanced Ontario Shutdown

Commentary From One MCEC Pastor:

"On the use of building question, my reading of the "Ontario Stay at Home Order" (above) would see a small gathering to pre-record, live-stream or Zoom as very clearly under exemption number 24: "Attending a gathering for the purpose of a wedding, a funeral or a religious service, rite or ceremony that is permitted under the Stage 1 Order or making necessary arrangements for the purpose of such a gathering." This is from the Order in Council itself. Interestingly, if you read the "Enhanced Provincewide (Ontario) Shutdown" document (above), the updates reflecting the State of Emergency actually do not reduce the gathering limit for religious services from the 10 people it has been for the past few weeks.

I also note the somewhat flexible language in exemption number 1 of the Order, which basically says that you can go to your workplace if your employer has determined that attendance at the workplace is required.  

In the end, the specifics of the order operate at a different level from the common instruction from the province not to leave home unless absolutely necessary.  Much of the time, I suspect, we'll be trying to respond as faithfully as possible to that public health plea, even if the details actually give a bit more lee-way.  There remains some discernment left to us."

Summer 2020: Congregational Re-Opening Plans

Summer 2020: Congregational Re-Opening Videos - Creative Instructional Videos

  • Faith Mennonite Church
  • First Hmong Mennonite Church

It has been remarkable how congregations across Mennonite Church Eastern Canada have adapted to the challenges of Covid-19. Online services via Zoom and YouTube (or a mix of both) have created memorable, and perhaps surprising, social and spiritual moments for many. Perhaps you have seen new people on your Sunday morning calls. Other church members might be noticeably absent – nothing truly replaces in-person, Sunday morning worship. Your congregation might be considering opening up now or in September. There are many considerations; we offer the following suggestions as you discern together.

  • Celebrate what has worked well these past few months.
    As of July, many regions in Ontario have entered Phase Three. Quebec activities are gradually resuming, also in phases. New Brunswick is currently at a Yellow alert level. These are milestones worth celebrating! As churches, we have modified our worship practices to avoid social contact, and we have contributed to the slowing of the virus. Many of our experimental worship and meeting practices can inform future community-building and worship planning.
  • Look to others for advice. Will you share your congregational re-opening plan?
    In many ways, little has changed since MCEC issued this statement urging caution on June 10, 2020. This page has links that you may find helpful. Please look to your local health authority for guidelines. Each congregation needs to make its own decisions about gatherings, moving slowly might be a good way to balance all of our spiritual, social, and health and safety needs.

    Churches across MCEC are developing their own plans. We would like to gather those plans as examples to share of how congregations are navigating next steps. Those examples are posted below. If you are willing to share your congregational plan, please forward then to
  • Flexibility is key.
    Things change so quickly. You may wish to consider the following suggestions as you formulate your plan:
    • Blend in-person and online services.
    • Plan your re-opening several weeks in advance; do not commit to a re-opening date months in advance.
    • Modify your service to reduce physical contact. Consider postponing special services and shared contact rituals, such as communion, passing an offering plate, and sharing a sign of peace.
    • Consider alternate types of worship beyond singing.
  • You are not alone.
    The Federal Government has a risk mitigation tool to help make your gatherings safe. Mennonite World Conference has a twelve-step plan for opening your church doors.
  • The practice of healthy discernment is key.
    Individuals within your congregation may have differing levels of comfort regarding what is safe. It is difficult to balance all of our human needs. Spiritual longing, social interaction, personal and public safety, and making a joyful noise in praise of our God are all natural and important values. These values may sometimes conflict and compete. As always, community discernment is tough, but also rewarding. Continue to discern together, knowing that community discernment is sometimes messy, but is also one of the best ways to determine together God’s will. 

Celebrate together. Make a flexible plan. Talk to one another. May God continue to guide and lead us as we extend the love, grace and peace of Jesus Christ in our neighbourhoods.

May 2020 Pastoral Conversation

A peer conversation exploring ministry in a time of pandemic.

Panelists:  Jim Brown, Kara Carter, Mark Diller-Harder, & Nancy Frey
Moderator:  Al Rempel


  1. As you wonder about when and how the congregation may start its community life again, what fears and concerns do you think you will need to address to take initial steps?
  2. Public Health officials are already inviting businesses to look at different innovations for how they can adjust to the needs for social distancing.  What are initial ideas you are considering as we look at the next steps?  (Parking lot church?; Hybrid model of online and small group)
  3. What are the assets of your congregational system that you hope to draw on as you begin to shape the next steps of congregational life?
  4. Breakout Room Discussion: What ideas have the panelists prompted for you as you consider next steps for your congregational setting?

Following this conversation a number of pastors asked if there could be a place where we would collect what pastors’ are finding as helpful resources and articles that others might benefit from.  The chat with links to article that were brought are listed below. If you would wish to contribute or find other resources please comment or review comments on this article.

We are certainly all in this together and finding ways to help each other along the way is the character and spirit of our church – thanks for the significant ministry you are doing.

Edited chat conversation: