A poster on the front door of the Grace Baptist Church in Hope lets people know the pews are open for praying without restrictions. (Sarah Gawdin/Hope Standard)

Hope’s churches are welcoming people back to the pews

Step 3 of provincial Restart plan removed restrictions on religious services

With the province opening up and relaxing public health protocols, Hope’s local churches have dusted off their remaining COVID restrictions and are welcoming attendees back to the pews in a manner much like it used to be.

“It has been nice to be back at church without COVID restrictions,” said pastor Bruce McDonald.

To manage the risk of COVID infections, the B.C. government created a four-step Restart plan to reduce restrictions over time in public spaces and workplaces. On July 1, 2021, the province moved to Step 3, which gave places of worship the ability to hold services with no capacity limits or restrictions.

“It was a bit of a back and forth process following all the different protocols,” said Grace Baptist Church associate pastor Jake Giles. “But it’s been about (a month) since re-opening, (and) things are good. It mostly (seems) like a regular Sunday, just with most everyone in groups. There’s still (not much) physical contact.”

But, the associate pastor adds, it just feels good to be back in the same space as each other, worshipping with each other.

“People are coming (back)—it’s exciting,” Giles continued. “There’s a community and relationships (within our congregation members),” which can be an important resource for people—especially during a pandemic.

But like with so many things right now, McDonald says it’s just “a time of adjustment, just as it is in the rest of society.

“(We’re all) getting used to life without … restrictions. There are still some individuals who care to refrain from hugs and handshakes, but that is okay. It is (just) good to be back worshipping God together and being able to interact face-to-face with our church family.”

Associate pastor Giles agrees that not everyone in their congregation is eager to invade another’s six-foot bubble, however, he says they have noticed a “few new patrons” in the pews, and “new people (are) watching the sermons online.” A service, he says, won’t end anytime soon.

The earliest possible start date for Step 4 of the Restart plan is currently listed as Sept. 7, 2021.


@SarahGawdin
Sarah.Gawdin@hopestandard.com

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