Rev. Kelly Duncan of Fort Langley’s St. George’s Anglican Church says some online worship will remain – even after COVID – to reach those who can’t come in person. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Rev. Kelly Duncan of Fort Langley’s St. George’s Anglican Church says some online worship will remain – even after COVID – to reach those who can’t come in person. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Safety, community key as B.C. churches prepare to welcome worshippers

Religious gatherings indoors will start up again soon

Places of worship will be allowed to welcome people back inside as part of the first step of B.C.’s re-opening plan, underway now, but Langley churches are taking it slow and moving in careful stages.

At Langley’s St. George’s Anglican church, more than a century old, there was no in person service scheduled for Sunday, May 31, the first weekend after the re-opening plan was announced, said Rev. Kelly Duncan.

The provincial announcement on Tuesday, May 25 said that indoor in-person faith-based gatherings would be able to resume at a reduced capacity.

But not all churches, including St. George’s, will be able to head back right away. A pastoral letter from Bishop John Stephens said that indoor worship won’t start in local Anglican churches until June 15.

“There is no indoor worship allowed at the moment unless it is for recording online worship (with a maximum of 10 people),” Stephens wrote.

Indoor worship will resume for Anglican churches as early as June 15, once all COVID protocols including masking, distancing, and contact tracing are in place, but with a ban on congregational singing.

Larger places of worship have other challenges and different plans.

Derrick Hamre, lead pastor at Langley’s Christian Life Assembly, has been working with his team on plans to slowly bring back approximately 3,000 people across several campuses to in-person worship.

That doesn’t mean that worship will be mass gatherings in the church itself right away.

“The church is not a building, the church is people,” Hamre said.

That’s why the first phase of CLA’s re-opening is to ask church members to open up their own homes as places of hospitality and gathering. With people now allowed to have members of other households visit, it’s gatherings of families and individuals that starts first.

“That’s where we begin, very grassroots,” said Hamre. “Love one another, connect with one another.”

The second stage will be bringing back people for gatherings in separate congregations. Youths, seniors, addiction recovery groups – they’ll be able to meet in church buildings in groups of 50 or fewer, with safety protocols.

After that, the public opening will be the first Sunday after June 15, assuming the provincial plan stays on track.

“We’re excited about that, we haven’t had Sundays open, really, for a year,” Hamre said.

The maximum number of people allowed to gather for worship indoors is expected to be 50.

Since November, during the second wave of COVID-19 that saw cases spike before the holidays, there has been no indoor worship allowed in churches, temples, and mosques in B.C., and local faith communities have turned to everything from virtual services via computer to gathering in cars in parking lots.

READ MORE: B.C. extends private gathering ban province-wide

READ MORE: Langley restaurants, businesses happy to see re-opening road map

Duncan said the St. George’s is being very cautious.

As for what a return to in-person worship will be like, Duncan said the first phase will likely be much like what was in place last summer and fall, when churches were open but with reduced capacity.

Those who want to attend in person will probably have to register in advance, she said.

At CLA, Hamre said the church is planning to hold a number of in-person special events over the summer to celebrate together as restrictions ease.

At St. George’s Duncan said there will still be some form of online worship for those who can’t come, but it won’t be a live stream of the indoor service.

“Doing a hybrid service in the church live is not something that’s easy to do,” she said, due to the age of the building.

However, the church does want to keep reaching out online even after the restrictions are all lifted.

The last year has brought in entirely new parishioners who had never set foot in the church before the pandemic, as well as some familiar faces.

“Folks that had moved away, that had been sorry to leave their church community,” Duncan said.

In addition, the online system allows reaching out to people who can’t leave their homes, whether for the long term or because of a temporary condition.

“It’s something that we’re trying to hold on to, absolutely,” she said.


Have a story tip? Email: matthew.claxton@langleyadvancetimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CoronavirusLangleyReligion

Just Posted

Saanich Volunteer Services Society volunteers head out to deliver this week’s meals to local seniors. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
VIDEO: Weekly meal deliveries help brighten the day for Saanich seniors

Seniors are delivered nutritional meals by a group of volunteers every Wednesday

Kidspace, which took over the YMCA-YWCA childcare centre at Eagle Creek Village, plans to reopen the Y’s fitness centre as the Eagle Creek Athletic Club in September. (Photo courtesy of Kidpsace)
Former Y fitness centre in View Royal aims to reopen in September

Kidspace taking over both the gym and the childcare facility at Eagle Creek Village

Cheyenne, six, Savannah, three, and Jeremiah Sinclair, 8, were out on walk with their mother on June 4 when they discovered the first of several hundred fish that died after bleach leaked into Reay Creek. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Spill in Sidney’s Reay Creek turns into ecological lesson for local children

Federal-provincial investigation ongoing into what appears to be a bleach spill

Law Enforcement Torch Run in support of Special Olympics B.C. kicks off with a run at Swan Lake on June 6. The virtual fundraiser runs until June 20. (Saanich Police/Twitter)
Torch run seeks to scorch previous fundraiser, targets $75,000 for Special Olympics

Global movement shoots for 40,000 km in honour of the 40th anniversary

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read