While most denominations and churches implemented Dr. Bonnie Henry’s new COVID-19 guidelines for last Sunday’s services, at least one did not.
Last Thursday (March 10), Dr. Henry said churches could immediately return to full capacity and that face masks were now optional.
Most groups promptly informed their congregations that they would be following those guidelines, though generally they also made a point of stating that anyone still wanting to remain masked should be made to feel comfortable.
Anglican Bishop John Stephens did not join the rush, stating March 11:
This information although not unexpected is very encouraging. However, for parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster I am asking that we continue with the current guidelines and directives as outlined in my February 15 pastoral letter through this weekend. . . .
Thus, worshipers in Anglican churches still wore masks during services, except when speaking or singing solo, and congregations were to require vaccine passports if they were to meet at full capacity.
However, Stephens issued another pastoral letter March 15, stating:
In the Diocese of New Westminster effective immediately for worship services ONLY:
- There are no longer any capacity limits for worship services in the diocese. This applies for vaccinated or unvaccinated people. This means that for worship only it is not mandatory to check vaccination records.
- Masks are no longer mandatory for worship.
- Distancing is no longer required. It is advised that you continue to encourage people to keep a distance between themselves, but it is not mandatory.
- Offertory Plates. Once again, we may return to passing the Offertory Plates amongst the congregation prior to these gifts being presented for the Prayer Over the Gifts.
- Congregational and Choral Singing. Singing may take place without the wearing of masks. This applies for both the congregation and choirs.
However, he still left room for a cautious approach, adding:
Please note that it will be important for all parishes and worshipping communities to determine the best ways to phase in these changes. It will be important to communicate clearly to your parishioners as to when and how you plan to do this. You may start immediately or decide to wait until after April 8, or possibly later.
Treena Duncan, Executive Minister of the Pacific Mountain Regional Council of the United Church of Canada, urged real caution in her March 11 post, but allowed removal of previous restrictions:
As you gather together in person, in the context of lessening restrictions, the regional council strongly encourages these three points:
- Ongoing use of masks for worship
- Careful sharing of food / coffee / social time – having someone serve or individual portions is preferred
- That congregation members continue to be masked for singing. It is best if choirs are also masked, but if choirs choose to be unmasked, please ensure that there is good distance between themselves and the congregation.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver responded with alacrity to Dr. Henry’s announcement.
An article in The B.C. Catholic began:
A memo from the Archdiocese of Vancouver to priests and parish staff went out this afternoon, advising that all worship services can proceed at 100 percent capacity and there are no longer any requirements for vaccination verification.
The requirement for everyone to wear a mask has also been removed.
The statement said non-worship events and social activities are included in the lifting of the mask requirement but remain subject to vaccination requirements until April 8.
The BC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada posted an update March 11:
There is no longer a requirement to restrict attendance based on vaccination status for
faith-based worship services.
Masks are optional; however, people may want to continue wearing a mask based on personal choice. Individual businesses and organizations can choose to continue to require mask wearing on their premises.
A March 15 Angus Reid Institute report found that BC residents are supportive of removing COVID-19 restrictions – 49 percent said the province removed restrictions at the right time, the highest rating of any province.
However, they are still cautious – 81 percent support or strongly support wearing a mask in public indoor spaces (compared to 73 percent across Canada).
There is no reason to think that Christians will differ much from the general public, so we can probably expect to see a good number of people wearing masks in church for the foreseeable future.
A new pilot program being launched in three Vancouver neighbourhoods aims “to increase connection and address community issues” – and should offer opportunities for local churches opportunities to participate.
Better Together (the Better Together: Neighbourhood Collective Action Pilot Program) will apply to Mount Pleasant, Downtown South and Olympic Village. The City of Vancouver describes the program in this way:
Approved by Council on March 2, it will work with local residents, including those experiencing unsheltered homelessness, businesses, and community stakeholders to create a proactive approach to addressing community challenges.
Recognizing many circumstances are rooted in trauma associated with colonialism, racism and gender-based violence, and reinforced through the same, priority issues include those related to the impacts of mental health, poverty, and unsheltered homelessness. . . .
The program will also work with local non-profits to support low-barrier employment opportunities as well as provide education and training to community members . . .
Mayor Kennedy Stewart said of Better Together:
Everyone deserves to feel safe in Vancouver, but we know for some people that isn’t the case. Unsheltered residents in particular face many challenges and we know our community wants to respond with care, compassion, and support.
That’s what the Better Together pilot is about. By proactively addressing community challenges and helping neighbours access mental health, housing and other supports, we can make sure everyone in our community feels safe and supported.
Better Together will take place from March 2022 until December 2023.
Collecting the fine
A Langley pastor is reporting that the City of Langley is coming after him for overdue fines which were issued because he was feeding homeless people in a public park.
I was issued a fine of $800 for feeding our Homeless in Rotary Park 3 1/2 years ago. Just today my wife Patti received a call at work from a collections agency for payment on these fines.
He linked to his September 24, 2018 post:
UPDATE on our Rotary Park situation . . . I just received 6 tickets (totalling $800) from the City of Langley covering the 2 Wednesdays we distributed food at Rotary Centennial Park:
1) Unauthorized Mobile Vendor (we weren’t charging – we were giving the food away)
2) Unlawful land-use P1 zoning – apparently parks aren’t zoned for giving food away.
3) Public gathering without a permit – Parks & Public facilities bylaw – it does say to have a permit to gather . . . I have to wonder when the last time that violation was issued for a gathering at a public park.
Have to talk to the City . . . BUT the last thing they told me was they would talk when they’re ready to talk. This is quite something!
In the March 10 post White added:
The City’s administration has typically taken a very adversarial approach to any initiative regarding caring for our homeless population. Their approach has typically been to bully and when that doesn’t work – and community feedback to them gets negative and the press gets bad for them they then change the rules.
Several recent newspapers articles have featured White’s work with the homeless:
* Langley Advance Times, March 8, 2022: Formerly homeless face evictions in Langley as COVID restrictions ease
* Langley Advance Times, January 2, 2022: Langley’s temporary homeless shelter shifts locations
* Langley Advance Times, December 31, 2021: Langley may need new location for emergency shelter
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