By Gisele McKnight
After a three-month closure, the Diocesan Synod Office has reopened today, Tuesday, June 16. It will be open to visitors Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
While most staff will still work from home for the time being, the bishop, his secretary and executive officer the Rev. David Peer are planning to work from the office on days it is open.
“I feel as bishop, I should be available to people — person-to-person — allowing for safety, of course, if they feel that’s what they need,” said Bishop David Edwards. “I feel people need to be able to be part of the life of the diocese.
“Although we recognize the limitations, I think it’s important that people are able to come in to access the things they need face-to-face.”
This is a provisional opening in keeping with the current yellow phase of COVID-19 recovery. If the province returns to the Orange phase, the office will likely have to close.
David Peer has been busy developing the government-required operational plan that has allowed the office to open. As a commander in the Royal Canadian Navy, he held several staff posts similar to this one, and is trained in crisis planning. Thus, he is well-equipped for a time such as this.
“When we’re dealing with risk, we want to eliminate the risk,” he said. “The next thing to do is put up barriers to risk, and the next is to enact procedures,” he said in explaining his approach to developing an operational plan to help keep risk to a minimum.
As such, the office has safety posters up, and it has limited opening hours. The few onsite staff have a list of guidelines for working together safely. All of the finance team will still work from home, and the second floor, where they normally work, is off limits to visitors.
“If you drop in, we can’t guarantee the one you want will be there,” said David Peer.
Visitors have access only to the entrance hall, the board room, the bathroom and the bishop’s office — all on the first floor.
But before a visitor can enter, he or she will have to read a checklist to ensure it’s safe to enter: have you travelled out of province; have you been asked to self-isolate; do you have COVID-like symptoms, and so on.
Once inside, “people will see tape on the floor for where they can stand,” said David Peer. “If we’re busy, you may need to wait outside. That’s the advantage to booking [an appointment] ahead.”
Synod staff will also keep a log of everyone who enters, in order to facilitate contact tracing should that become necessary.
“We’re asking churches to do that as well,” said David Peer. “Our ops plan should be useful for parishes to see how they can open their offices.”
Despite all the precautions and regular cleaning going on at the office, with the Ops Plan “people can make up their own minds on how comfortable they are with coming to the Synod Office,” he said, adding all staff are available by phone and email during the work day.
To read the Diocesan operational plan, click here.