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B.C. church services could resume soon, says top doctor

A protest against health orders stopping church gatherings was held in Kelowna Sunday, March 14, 2021.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Art Lucier
March 15, 2021 - 4:26 PM

Church services could soon be back as the province's top doctor works on guidelines to make the gatherings safe.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said today, March 15, she's been working with different faith leaders to figure out guidelines to best roll out safe religious gatherings and they will be available in the weeks ahead. 

"We have come up with some guidelines for outdoor services, and we'll be looking at putting class variances in the next couple of days, with the guidelines for how safe outdoor services can be held for religious groups who want to do that," she said.

"Let me make this very clear, I've heard this from many faith leaders, they understand that we're still in a very precarious situation, and some communities are absolutely not yet ready to have in-person services, and some communities, it can be done perfectly safely."

The second change is around the important holidays.

"We know that for Christians, Easter, and for people of the Jewish faith that Passover are two very important holidays that are coming up at the end of this month, so we've been consulting through this process to see how we can have some limited in-person gatherings for those very important celebrations safely."

Again, she said, some churches or synagogues are finding other ways to have those services remotely but for some, it will be very important to have some limited indoor access for those celebrations. Clarity on that may be available next week.

"Finally, we're using the process to help understand how we can have a safe, phased-in reopening of in-person religious services across the board," she said, adding that information should be available by mid-April.

"Those are all flexible depending on the advice that I'm giving about what are the important things that we need to take into consideration, (from) the public health perspective, (such as ) how much transmission we're seeing in communities and our public health resources to be able to manage and work with on outbreaks and clusters."

READ MORE: Protesters gather in Kelowna to call for end to COVID-19 restrictions on churches

This will all drive how much life can resume in the next few months.

This weekend, hundreds of people pushing for the re-opening of churches gathered along Highway 97 in Kelowna to voice their opposition to public health orders that banned in person services.

“Pastors are essential… elders, church workers, Sunday school teachers you are essential,” pastor of the Harvest Church, Art Lucier, said in a Facebook live video, highlighting the volume of people who gathered for several hours, March 14.

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