While a handful of churches across the province have been fined in recent months for ignoring COVID-19 regulations, several Revelstoke faith leaders said they stand behind the restrictions.
On Dec. 17 alone, three churches in Chilliwack were handed fines totalling $18,400 for conducting in-person gatherings despite public health orders forbidding them.
Another church near Calgary was fined this month after an inspector found only two of approximately 75 attendees were wearing masks and people were sitting side-by-side.
“We’re not on the same page as those churches,” said Pastor Jordan Eadie, Revelstoke Baptist Church. Eadie said he fully supports the restrictions to help stop the spread of the deadly virus.
However, Eadie acknowledged it’s a difficult time for churches.
Previously, when a member of his congregation was in distress Eadie would meet them face to face. Current public orders have made that much more difficult.
“A lot of people are struggling spiritually right now,” said Eadie.
“When not in-person, it’s hard to gauge what’s going on.”
While it’s important to follow and support public health orders, Eadie said churches are essential.
“They are a hospital for the soul.”
The Revelstoke Baptist Church has offered weekly services online since March.
A motion was brought forward to Vernon city council, asking council to lobby the provincial government to have places of worship labeled essential, potentially allowing them to remain open in some capacity.
Pastor Josiah Olson of C3 Church in Revelstoke said COVID-19 has forced his faith-community to be more creative on how to connect with members. For example, the church recently purchased tablets for Mount Cartier Court, a long-term care home, for the seniors to watch services online.
And, because they can’t meet in person, Olson asked his congregation to go for a walk and pray, last week.
“It’s important for us to create a space for engagement. Isolation does not fair well for people,” said Olson.
He said, although in-person services are banned, churches are not closed.
“We do not exist for ourselves, but for the community. We are more than a place to gather.”
Lay minister Clara Maltby from the Revelstoke United Church said she was disappointed with the forced closure of places of worship, whereas big box stores remained open.
“For some members, the church is as important as schools are to students,” she said.
“If we could have stayed open, whatever the requirements were, we would have met them.”
Maltby said she worries when restrictions loosen, members might not return. Instead, preferring to watch the Kamloops service online.
While Maltby said she appreciates virtual services as they reach more people, in the end YouTube doesn’t cut it.
“Spiritual experiences are exemplified in person. With prayer there is power in numbers.”
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