Coronavirus: Alberta’s places of worship differ in COVID-19 responses
Places of worship across Alberta are taking different steps when it comes to limiting the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Some have already shut down services or have excusing seniors from attending mass and others will be making a decision in the coming days.
Places of worship were initially exempt from Alberta’s ban on gatherings of more than 250 people, but on Sunday, Alberta’s top doctor said that’s no longer the case.
“We now have evidence that community transmission is occurring,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
“Effective immediately, all places of worship are now being asked to follow the same restrictions.”
David Cay, an associate pastor with the Lighthouse Community Church in Calgary, said his church has already cancelled in-person services — opting instead for a livestream.
“It felt like it was important to do our part in helping contain the spread,” Cay said.
“We felt like it was the best way to love our neighbours and love our communities.”
Cay said protecting seniors and children was a driving factor to cancel services.
“My parents are in their 60s right now, so I’m really worried about them,” said Cay. “I just think it is just the best thing to do and to do our part.”
He also hopes other preachers take similar steps to protect their congregations, while still coming together during a tough time.
On Saturday, the Anglican Diocese of Calgary announced on its website that all public services are suspended until March 31.
In a letter, Leighton Lee, the dean of Calgary, said the demographics of churchgoers factored into the decision.
“Please understand that this decision hasn’t been arrived at lightly,” said Lee.
“But given the fact … that many members of our congregations are part of the vulnerable sector, the only prudent response is to suspend services of worship. We have a duty to protect them.”
The Anglican Diocese of Edmonton has also posted on its website that churches will not be gathering for public worship for the next while.
It listed a number of churches that will be livestreaming services and linked to online sermons.
William McGratten, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, wrote a letter to his parishioners regarding masses happening on March 15.
In the letter, McGratten said masses will still go ahead as scheduled, but excused Calgary Catholics from attending.
“In the light of the World Health Organization declaring the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus a pandemic with sustained risk of further global spread, the need to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the Faithful and to ease the distress they may endure, I, William T. McGrattan, the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, dispense those Catholics in the Diocese of Calgary from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass on March 14th and 15th,” McGratten wrote.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton posted a COVID-19 update on Friday which also said that parishes should continue with weekday and Sunday masses for the time being, but that attendees should take extra precautions.
“Out of consideration for the well-being of others in the community, Archbishop Smith advises that the elderly, anyone with an underlying health condition, and those who feel even slightly unwell are excused from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass.”
The Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton also told churchgoers to refrain from shaking hands.
Imams and members of Calgary’s Muslim community are meeting on Tuesday to decide if Friday prayers will be cancelled moving forward.
Jamal Hammoud, a senior Imam in Calgary, said he expects prayers to be cancelled but that the mosque will remain open for community support.
Mostafa Hassan, the chair of the Muslim Council of Calgary, said Edmonton mosques will most likely follow suit.
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