St. James Catholic Church in Vernon was empty on Christmas Eve Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, in line with restrictions on religious gatherings amid COVID-19. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star file)

St. James Catholic Church in Vernon was empty on Christmas Eve Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020, in line with restrictions on religious gatherings amid COVID-19. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star file)

In-person worship should be deemed essential: Vernon city councillor

Council to consider penning letter to province supporting the declaration of essential worship with safety protocols in place

Churches shut doors to congregants mid-November on the heels of new provincial health orders banning gatherings, but some are fighting to prove places of worship are an essential service.

City of Vernon councillors will consider sending a letter to the province supporting the notion of reopening places of worship, deemed as an essential service, at the regular meeting Monday, Jan. 11.

The motion, put forward by Coun. Scott Anderson, says with proper safety protocols in place, including appropriate physical distancing and mandatory masks indoors, risks to congregants would be minimal.

Anderson uses the allowance of air travel, with passengers sitting in close proximity, and bustling big box stores with unmonitored aisle traffic as examples of riskier situations than attending church.

“Public transit is ongoing, yet congregational worship is not allowed, even with the same restrictions required elsewhere,” his rationale reads. “Requesting that the province remedy this situation is a step toward safe and secure worship.”

While some places of worship, such as Harvest Ministries International in Kelowna and three churches in Chilliwack, were fined for contravening the province-wide orders, many more abide by the orders and have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by moving services online.

Furthermore, a joint letter of support, penned by 38 church leaders in B.C., was sent to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix Jan. 5 expressing the religious leaders’ disappointment with critical comments made from some faith leaders in the province condemning the ban on gatherings.

Brought to Vernon by Peace Lutheran pastor David Hunter, All Saints Anglican Church Rev. Canon Chris Harwood-Jones was happy to sign alongside Trinity United Church minister Rev. Robin Jacobson.

“It’s the nature of social media,” Harwood-Jones said, noting the letter was intended to create distance from the few faith leaders refusing to acknowledge or adhere to provincial health orders. “The most extreme positions get amplified.”

All Saints has not had in-person worship services since March and senior priest Harwood-Jones said the church had never taken the position that “in-person gatherings are ‘essential’ to Christian faith practice.”

“Indeed, because faith practice is essential but physical gathering is not,” he said Friday, Jan. 8.

Instead, All Saints has invested time and funding into tech to bring its worship services online and now people from as far as California, Quebec, Alberta and Ontario are tuning in.

“We’re not going to waste a good crisis,” Harwood-Jones said regarding plans to bring streaming services into a post-COVID reality. “We have to do it, so we might as well do it well and continue to do it after.”

Coun. Anderson’s notice of motion comes before council during Monday’s regular meeting which can be streamed online through the City of Vernon website starting at 1:30 p.m. Members of the public can view the recorded video the following day after 12 p.m.

READ MORE: ‘None of this gets in God’s way’: Vernon church

READ MORE: Mixed feelings among Vernon pastors as COVID-19 restrictions curb religious services


@caitleerach
Caitlin.clow@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Million-dollar lotto ticket sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read