Around Town: Covid responses, Better Together, fined for feeding homeless . . .

Dr. Bonnie Henry loosened COVID-19 restrictions March 10. Government of BC photo

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:

Anglican Bishop John Stephens. Photo: Stéphane Lavoie

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.

Better Together

Granville Street in Downtown South, location of one of the three ‘Better Together’ pilot programs.

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 . . .

Go here for the full release and here for a 15-page report from the General Manager of Arts, Culture and Community Services to Vancouver’s Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities.

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.

Leith White, Lead Pastor of Langley Vineyard Church, stated on his Facebook page March 10:

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

March 17, 2022

Religious Dimensions of the War Against Ukraine – March 17, 2022 at 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

March 18, 2022

Audible – March 18, 2022 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

March 21, 2022

Awake from Woke #2 – March 21, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

March 23, 2022

Cancelled: Chris Tomlin & Hillsong United – March 23, 2022 at All Day

March 24, 2022

Writing on Music, Meaning and the Ineffable – March 24, 2022 at 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
SIMinar: Explore Liberia – March 24, 2022 at 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Listening to Creation's Call: The Church & Climate Change – March 24, 2022 at 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
The Impact of Technology on Relationships: Should We Worry? – March 24, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

March 25, 2022

Apologetics Canada Leadership Summit – March 25, 2022 - March 27, 2022 at 4:00 pm - 12:00 pm
ARPA Canada: Preparing for Conversion Therapy Bans – March 25, 2022 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Eugene Skovorodnikov: Ukrainian-Canadian pianist aids humanitarian gathering – March 25, 2022 at 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Kentucky Eileen – March 25, 2022 at 8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

March 27, 2022

AC Literary Expedition: Prophetic or Pathetic? Exploring Orwell's Warnings to the Future – March 27, 2022 at 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

March 28, 2022

Reflections on the Possibilities and Impossibilities of Experiencing Home – March 28, 2022 at 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

March 29, 2022

IRF Webinar | Advocating to Eliminate the Death Penalty – March 29, 2022 at 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Interface Lectures: Niels Henrik Gregersen – Christ in a World of Creativity and Suffering: Deep Incarnation and the Evolution of Biological Agency – March 29, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

March 30, 2022

Jordan Wales: Theology of the Person – Personhood and AI – March 30, 2022 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Interface Lectures: Niels Henrik Gregersen – An Eco-theology of Wondering, Intervening, and Enmeshment: Deep Incarnation and the Three Ecologies – March 30, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Taking Your Soul to Work – March 30, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

March 31, 2022

Taste of Alpha – March 31, 2022 at 9:00 am - 10:15 am
Mark Glanville: Called to this Time – Easter – March 31, 2022 at 9:30 am - 12:00 pm
Standing Guard – March 31, 2022 at 10:00 am - 11:30 am
Interface Lectures: Niels Henrik Gregersen – Living in a World of Shocks and Resilience: Towards a Theology of Disasters – March 31, 2022 at 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Lauren Strumos: Notions of Justice Among Activists Opposed to the Trans Mountain Pipeline – March 31, 2022 at 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Kairos Blanket Exercise – March 31, 2022 at 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

April 1, 2022

Laila Biali – April 1, 2022 at 8:00 am - 10:00 am
When the World was Young: Novel Reading and IPIAT Thesis Presentation by Kelly Dycavinu – April 1, 2022 at 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

April 2, 2022

A Day for Churches to Explore Developing Affordable Housing – April 2, 2022 at 9:30 am - 12:30 pm
Mission Central GROW – April 2, 2022 at 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Pysanky Egg Workshop – April 2, 2022 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Pysanky: Ukrainian Easter Eggs – April 2, 2022 at 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

April 5, 2022

Seminary Connect by ACTS Seminaries – April 5, 2022 at 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

April 6, 2022

Dr. Ard Louis: Natural Science and Scientism: Probing the Difference – April 6, 2022 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Book Launch with Dr. Ross Hastings: Rising to the Resurrection of Jesus: Its Theological Significance & Ongoing Relevance – April 6, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 8:45 pm

April 7, 2022

Global Pandemic by Michelle Leone Huisman – April 7, 2022 - April 10, 2022 at All Day
Chinese Christianity: Making Sense of the Present in Light of the Past – April 7, 2022 at 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
VST Faculty Book Launch – April 7, 2022 at 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Global Pandemic: Artist Talk – April 7, 2022 at 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

April 8, 2022

Margaret Somerville: Theology of the Person – Personhood & Bioethics – April 8, 2022 at 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm

April 9, 2022

Keening for the Dawn: Lament, Hope & Yearning for God – April 9, 2022 at 9:30 am - 4:00 pm

April 12, 2022

'Recovering Racists' Book Launch – April 12, 2022 at 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

April 13, 2022

Joy Clarkson: Is Re-enchantment Possible? – Piranesi and the Postmodern Condition – April 13, 2022 at 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Lost and Found: Opening Reception – April 13, 2022 at 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm

April 14, 2022

United Voices "Arise!" Spring Concert – April 14, 2022 at 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
How the World Began – April 14, 2022 - April 16, 2022 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

April 15, 2022

Testament – April 15, 2022 - April 18, 2022 at All Day
An Artistic Journey: Original art by Chris Woods – April 15, 2022 at 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Stations of the Cross (two guided walks) – April 15, 2022 at 10:30 am - 2:30 pm

April 17, 2022

Hearing God Seminar 2022 (Saturday mornings) – April 17, 2022 at 10:00 am - 12:00 pm

April 20, 2022

Religion at the Edge: Findings from the Cascadia Project – April 20, 2022 at 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

April 22, 2022

Creation Care and the Good News of Jesus Christ – April 22, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

April 27, 2022

Meet the Author of 'Posting Peace' – April 27, 2022 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
The Good Samaritan and Health Care Justice: Scott Kline – April 27, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Shari Ulrich's Trust Me' Series presents Martyn Joseph – April 27, 2022 at 7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

April 28, 2022

Faith & the Environment – April 28, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

April 29, 2022

Flourishing Conference: Overseas and Over Your Fence (online, two mornings) – April 29, 2022 - April 30, 2022 at 8:30 am - 12:30 pm
2022 CLF National Law Student Conference – April 29, 2022 - May 2, 2022 at 6:00 pm - 12:00 pm
God & Government British Columbia Conference – April 29, 2022 at 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The Rogue Folk Club presents Martyn Joseph – April 29, 2022 at 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm

April 30, 2022

Free Income Tax Service – April 30, 2022 at 9:30 am - 2:00 pm
SIM 2022 Virtual Banquet – April 30, 2022 at 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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