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Places of worship respond to lack of social gathering restrictions

Last Updated Oct 29, 2020 at 10:56 am MST

The First Baptist Church located on 4 Street and 13 Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, April 6, 2017. (PHOTO: Chelsey Harms/660 NEWS)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) – COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the province and as the government implements new gathering restrictions, churches do not fall under the limitations.

The province has put a limit on social gatherings to a maximum of 15 people in Calgary and Edmonton, but structured events like worships remain unaffected.

There has been some concern as the Director of Operations at Hillhurst United Anne Yates-Laberge says, churches are not immune to the spread.

“It doesn’t really matter that you’re in a house of worship. You (could still) contract the (virus).”

Additionally, some of the buildings can’t supply proper airflow.

“Houses of worship are in some of the oldest buildings in the city and the ventilation systems in those buildings are almost non-existent,” added Yates-Laberge.

She says there needs to be more direction and guidance from the government.

“I know people that really miss their churches, and we really miss our congregation but putting them in a higher risk level, given all we know about the spaces they’re in, is a dangerous decision.”

Meanwhile, Calgary Bishop William McGrattan says he does not want to see any further restrictions implemented.

“We are providing guidelines that don’t restrict too much but at the same time recognize that they are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

He adds they are currently only running at a third of their capacity due to social distancing and they would only hold in-person ceremonies in a safe and healthy way.

“I would not want to see us restrict anymore than what we can because I do think that it’s important for people to have a spiritual experience.”

Anglican Archbishop Greg Kerr-Wilson says the churches and the public need to maintain the COVID-19 protocols and that fatigue cannot be an excuse.

“It’s been that long without being able to do the things that we’re used to doing and that wears on people and it opens up the temptation.”

“The core of our faith is to love God and love your neighbour as yourself. Sometimes, that seems easier than others and this is maybe a slightly more difficult time that takes some decisions and some discipline. Let’s do that.”