Few churches are reopening their doors despite OK from gov’t
South Peace News
A few local churches are starting to reopen for Sunday services as restrictions are relaxed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Places of worship were allowed to open May 17 after the Alberta government announced the first phase of the relaunch to open the economy.
Churches are allowed to hold services for a maximum of one-third of regular attendance at one time or 50 people, whichever is lower.
No group singing is allowed, people in specified roles must wear face masks, no food can be served, social distancing of six feet is required and washrooms must be sanitized after every use.
Churches are also required to record the names of all people at each service.
Those are among four pages of health restrictions and requirements for churches.
Most churches were ordered to close their doors to public services and gatherings March 22.
Many still show services online.
Anglican churches remain closed for services until further notice.
Each parish that wishes to reopen is required to submit a plan to the Anglican Diocese of Athabasca and get express permission from the bishop, says Bishop David Green- wood.
Churches in High Prairie, McLennan and Peace River areas have decided not to open at this time, he says.
“A lot of our churches have aging populations, which is a vulnerable age group for COVID,” Greenwood says.
“I suspect the first services will be held outside.”
He says church leaders told him that Anglican churches are not ready to reopen at this time.
“It’s better to reopen late than to reopen early.”
Churches that reopen must comply with all health guidelines and regulations, he says.
High Prairie Church of the Nazarene hopes to open it doors in the coming weeks, Pastor Brian Gilroy says.
“We would like to reopen our services,” Gilroy says.
“The decision is not in our hands.
“We follow the protocol from our district and national board.”
He said the church would have to follow all the regulations and restrictions for places of worship.
“There are a lot of restrictions,” Gilroy says.
He invites people to watch the livestream service online on the church Facebook page Sunday at 11 a.m.
High Prairie United Church has cancelled Sunday services into the summer.
“We have decided to wait until the fall to see what happens,” says Cheryl Marx, secretary of the board.
She says many in the small congregation are seniors and attendance is usually low in the summer.
Marx also invites people to view a livestreamed Sunday worship service.
Simply Google “United Church of Canada live stream Sunday services” and scroll down to “Worship Online during COVID-19”.
Several churches from across Canada that are livestreaming are listed.
Marx advises people to check out the service times ahead of time as services begin at different times and time zone differences should also be taken into account.
High Prairie Victory Life Church may reopen in the summer as restrictions may be reduced as the provincial relaunch progresses.
“We’re waiting to see the new regulations and restrictions in the next phase later this month,” Pastor Luc Portelance says.
“It will take some to implement.”
Portelance invites people to watch services streamlined from McLennan Victory Life Church.
See more details from McLennan Victory Life Church.
Redeemer Lutheran Church opens its doors June 14 for its first worship service in two months, starting at 10:30 a.m.
“We’re having services once a month,” Pastor Terry Goerz says.
After the first service in June, he says the church will hold services the third Sunday of each month.
“During the summer months, our attendance drops and it’s hard to get very many people to a service,” Goerz says.
He invites people to view Sunday services of Faith Lutheran Church in Grande Prairie online on the Facebook page of Faith Lutheran at 11 a.m.
More information is on the Faith Lutheran Church website at www.faithgp.com.
The church has a small congregation, he notes.
McLennan Victory Life Church is keeping its door closed to public services to the end of summer.
“We will look at a relaunch of the church in September,” says Pastor Todd Moore.
“Restrictions are tough to meet.”
Moore notes ministries usually break in summer and attendance at services drops.
He invites people to watch livestream Sunday services on its Facebook page at 10 a.m.
He says he is also posting videos of encouragement online on Facebook and on the church website at www.mclennanvictory.com.
McLennan United Church has cancelled services until the fall.
City on a Hill Community Church remains closed for public services.
“We are not gathering for Sunday services,” Pastor Richard Fortier says.
“We have a lot of seniors.”
Fortier invites people to watch the Sunday service on livestream at 10:30 a.m.
Connect online on the e-mail at email@example.com.
First Baptist Church Peace River remains closed for Sunday services until further notice.
“Although restrictions have been lifted, for the time being, we will be keeping our services online only,” says church secretary Raechelle Nielsen.
She invites people to watch the livestream service of Faith Baptist Church Peace River on Sundays at 10:30 a.m.
Services can be seen on Facebook and YouTube.
Peace River Christian Fellowship reopened for its first public service May 17.
“We can open our services to 50 people,” Pastor Ken Wiebe says.
“We’re hoping we can open up to more people sooner.”
He says the church is coping with the restrictions.
“It’s manageable, but not preferable,” Wiebe says.
St. Paul’s United Church in Peace River and Grace United Church in Grimshaw expect to open for services in one of the buildings soon.
“Our hope is to have a service in at least one of the two churches starting June 14,” says Rev. Dr. Johnny Rhoad, who pastors both churches.
“With one of the churches, we could have up to 20 people.”
The local board made that decision, although the United Church of Canada recommends its churches not reopen until September, Rhoad says.
Local boards also have authority to reopen, he notes.
“We want to gather, we want to be safe,” Rhoad says.