Praying under protocol: B.C. faith leaders on welcoming worshippers back to services safely Social Sharing.
Praying during a pandemic is not without challenges.
After months of keeping the faith alive at home, many British Columbians are returning to their places of worship for the first time since March, when leaders were forced to close the doors on their congregations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As services resume, it is up to these leaders to make sure they are balancing people’s need to pray with the need to follow health and safety protocols and keep everybody safe.
“The preservation of human life, the protection of human life — and particularly the most vulnerable — is far more important than the physical gathering to worship,” said Dan Moskovitz, senior rabbi at Temple Sholom in Vancouver.
Moskovitz, speaking Friday on The Early Edition, said he is proud that members of his congregation quickly adapted to video technology to celebrate Passover in the spring and have followed the advice of health authorities since the early days of the pandemic.
The synagogue itself is still closed. Moskovitz said services are being held outside for the time being.
No more than 40 people can attend a single service and they must enter and leave the space in the same sequence. They are seated in taped off sections that are spaced at least two metres apart.
Moskovitz likened the seating arrangements to a lounge, with everyone having their own seating and cocktail table.
“No cocktails on there. We’d probably get more [people] if we did,” he said with a chuckle.
Mohammad Shujaath Ali, imam at Vancouver mosque Masjid-ul Haqq, said mosques have opened for worshippers but only for basic prayer services; all other educational programs are still being held online.
“The prayer is what we have started but with the restriction of less than 40 to 50 individuals at a time,” said Ali, adding people who are considered most vulnerable to the virus are advised to remain home.
Face masks are mandatory at Masjid-ul Haqq and people must bring their own prayer mats.
Ali said the demand is constantly growing from people who want to return to the mosque to pray. As a result, worshippers must register online to attend and multiple congregational prayer services are being held in a single day to accommodate everyone.
For members of the Muslim faith, the pandemic meant a very different Ramadan, the month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims around the world forego food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Eid al-Fitr is a feast celebration that comes at the end of Ramadan.
“We missed greatly the type of connection we usually have on that occasion, however we understood the challenging times,” said Ali, who also spoke on The Early Edition Friday.
Melissa Skelton, Anglican archbishop of the diocese of New Westminster, live-streamed this year’s Easter services rather than welcoming worshippers at Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral.
“I could focus on what was frustrating about it but I decided to focus on the beauty,” said Skelton, who told The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn that Anglican churches have now begun to hold in-person services again.
Skelton said 45 of 66 churches have already applied to reopen and that WorkSafeBC was impressed with their health and safety plans.
“We have a very stringent application process,” said Skelton, who added that like Moskovitz, many Anglican leaders are looking at how to creatively and safely hold outdoor services.
“My prayer is that we can keep the energy up … to keep on keeping on,” said Skelton