Circumstances related to COVID-19 are evolving rapidly. While staff at the General Council Office, in consultation with the Regional Executive Ministers, are considering a range of scenarios, it is important that all church leaders follow the advice of their local public health officials in making decisions about suspending church activities or closing their church office. Every local area is different, and your local public health officials will have the most relevant information for your decision-making.
In regards to pastoral relationships and employment in local congregations, the General Council Office offers this guidance:
- If ministry personnel or staff are in self-isolation, continue salary so the staff person is not put in a position where they have to not self-isolate to meet their financial obligations, potentially putting others at risk.
- Some lay staff positions and most ministry personnel can work from home while in self-isolation by using telephone, computer, and video links to continue pastoral care, administration, and the development and provision of devotional and worship resources.
- If self-isolation leads to illness, the isolation time will be counted for the purposes of qualifying for eligibility for restorative care benefits and employer reimbursement for the duration of the illness.
- If staff do become ill, contact your regional council office about processes for initiating the restorative care program.
- Staff who have personal concerns about risk factors that have not been flagged by their local public health officials should consult with their Ministry and Personnel Commitee or regional council pastoral relations minister.
- If Sunday worship is discontinued (follow the advice of your local public health unit), continue salary; ministry personnel and church staff should continue to work from the church office or from home as the circumstance permits.
- Ensure that your congregation has more than one authorized ADP representative who can instruct ADP payroll services.
- If local congregations, because of closure, experience cash flow problems, particularly for meeting payroll obligations, consideration should be given to reserves that may be held or lines of credit that may be secured through your local bank.
- Members who are not currently on pre-authorized remittance (PAR) for regular church donations should be encouraged to continue their donations through CanadaHelps.org (all registered charities, whether your church has signed up or not, are listed with CanadaHelps, and any donations made will be forwarded to your congregation).
- If local resources or credit are not available to a congregation, contact your regional council office for guidance.
- If the General Council Office is required to close, payroll, benefits, and pension services will continue to be provided through the usual points of telephone and e-mail contact.
If your church does suspend Sunday worship, get creative! Post prayers, reflections, news, even a video sermon recorded on a cellphone to your church website or social media page! Hold an online study group or one reflecting on this time of global challenge. Set up telephone trees to keep in touch on a regular basis with members of your congregation, particularly vulnerable members.
In all things in this time, hold each other prayerfully, graciously, and generously.
Oh, and wash your hands!
The Reverend Alan Hall, Executive Officer Ministry and Employment
General Council Office
See more on Faith Communities and COVID-19.