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Background:  In accordance with public health directives, Southminster United Church moved to a primarily on-line existence in mid-March. Council meetings of March 25, April 22, May 27, June 24, August 19, September 2 and September 23 have all focused on our response to the pandemic.  The current situation is as follows:

  • Sunday worship services are on-line, with the Minister, Music Director, and one or two singers appearing from the sanctuary, while the lay readers, other singers, and children’s programming appear either remotely or via pre-recorded segments.

  • Coffee time occurs on-line via zoom, immediately after the conclusion of the Sunday service.

  • Our popular Wednesday noon concert series, Doors Open for Music at Southminster (DOMS) moved online from March through July. 

  • The office remains closed, with the Minister, Music Director and Church Administrator conducting business remotely from their homes.

  • The building is closed to the public, though basic maintenance and cleaning have continued.  Importantly, our plans for a major re-development of the sanctuary continue on schedule, with the tender currently being advertised.

Key Considerations: In thinking about a re-opening plan, Council has been guided by a number of considerations.  Some of the most important considerations informing its approach to this issue are as follows:

  • Health and Safety:  We must at all times be guided by the current public health guidelines. Here are the most recent guidelines for places of worship from Ottawa Public Health, dated October 15.

  • Our Congregation:  We must acknowledge that many members of our congregation are elderly and therefore in the most vulnerable population. This necessitates an extra level of care, as laid out in this bulletin from Ottawa Public Health.  We want to ensure that we respond to the needs of those members of our congregation who may not be able to return to in-person worship services for the foreseeable future.

  • Successful Live Stream:  The live-stream services have proven to be very successful. They are reaching not only our regular congregants, but some former congregants now living outside Ottawa. 

  • Desire for In-Person Services:  As much as the live-stream services have been successful, there is also something missing -- the opportunity to worship together, in person, as a community of faith. And to hear music live! For these reasons, at least some members of the congregation have expressed a strong desire to return to in-person services, as soon as it is safe to do.

Congregational Survey: To gauge the attitudes of the congregation, Council conducted a short survey in early September, in which it asked about live-stream versus in-person services. Forty-six members and adherents responded, as follows:

1. Have you been viewing the live-streamed services since they began in March?

All the time: 15

Frequently: 17

Sometimes: 8

Never: 6


2. Once hybrid services begin, how likely is it that you will view the live-stream service?

Very likely: 21

Somewhat likely: 12

Not very likely: 7

Not at all: 6


3. Once hybrid services begin, how likely is it that you will attend the in-person service?

Very likely: 14

Somewhat likely: 12

Not very likely: 12

Not at all: 8


Recommendation:  Based on the above considerations, and the results of the congregational survey, Council reaffirms its decision, first taken at the August 19 meeting, to transition to hybrid Sunday services, in which the present live-stream services will continue for the indefinite future, but congregants who choose to do so will also be allowed to attend in the sanctuary, subject to the public health guidelines enumerated below. Hybrid services are targeted to begin on October 11.



  • Full plan posted on the website and Facebook page and included in Southminster This Week.

  • Signage at the entrance (re screening criteria, use of hand sanitizer and wearing a mask) and in appropriate spots throughout the church.


Before Service

  • Designate pews that are not to be used to ensure proper social distancing.

  • Put directional tape arrows on the floor.

  • Remove hymn books and bibles from pews.

  • Clean/sanitize, with focus on high use areas/surfaces, e.g. doorknobs and railings.

  • Open windows to improve ventilation.

  • Ensure hand sanitizers are operational. Have Sani-wipes available to clean microphones etc.  if necessary


At Service

  • Attendance to a maximum of 120 people, which represents approximately 30% of the seating capacity of the ground floor of the sanctuary.

  • Screening upon arrival; entry to be denied to anyone who does not meet screening criteria.

  • Entry at Aylmer St. ramp entrance only; proper social distancing to be maintained.

  • Record names upon entering.  It was agreed that, in order to avoid sharing of a pen, this attendance register would be kept by an usher at the entrance, who would ask each person arriving for their name and contact information, and whether they meet the screening criteria.

  • No bulletin; entire order of service projected on the screen.

  • Mandatory wearing of masks by all attending.  Spare masks available at entrance for those who forget to bring their own.

  • Mandatory use of hand sanitizer on arrival and departure.

  • Family units and “bubbles” may sit together, but otherwise full social distancing for all attending.

  • No children’s programming; children must sit with parents throughout.

  • Passing of the Peace can be recognized, everyone remains in place and no physical contact.

  • Communion to be offered online only until further notice.

  • Offering plate on a table near the exit on the way out. Usher to place offering in an envelope for storage in the safe; to be counted the following week.

  • No congregational singing.

  • Live musical performances by Music Director and any soloists following Ontario and Ottawa Public Health guidelines.

  • Washroom access restricted to the washroom at the Aylmer St. entrance. Sani-wipe dispenser to be available in the washroom.


After Service

  • Exit via Aylmer St. entrance; proper social distancing maintained.

  • No coffee hour.

  • Clean/sanitize, with focus on high use areas/surfaces, e.g. doorknobs and railings.


Other Considerations

  • All users of our space to be informed of the relevant Ottawa Public Health guidelines and to be required to abide by them.

  • DOMS to proceed on a hybrid basis, with full public health protocols for those attending in person.

  • In order to allow for necessary work, the office will be open one day a week, on Wednesdays, starting immediately. In-person visits with the Minister or Church Administrator will be by appointment only.  Only one visitor at a time will be allowed in the office.

  • The Minister will meet congregants at another location within the building, not in his office.

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