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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Regional District of North Okanagan is cautioning residents to watch for rock slides along the Okanagan Rail Trail during freeze-thaw season. (RDNO photo)
Residents urged to watch for rockfalls on Okanagan Rail Trail

RDNO reminds rail trail travellers to heed rockfall warning signs during freeze-thaw season

A proposed development would see two four-storey apartment buildings erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
‘Affordable’ apartments hot topic in Armstrong

Public hearing to reconvene next Monday to hear out residents’ concerns about rezoning greenspace

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

Charlotte is one of the resident pigs at Star's Piggly Wiggly's Sanctuary near Kelowna. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Kelowna-area pig sanctuary needs a new home

Star’s Piggly Wiggly’s Sanctuary is looking for properties in Vernon, Coldstream, and Enderby

(Stock photo)
EDITORIAL: COVID-19 restrictions continue to affect us all

Canada has recorded more than 700,000 confirmed cases of pandemic

A couple living at the Summerland Waterfront Resort is trying to sell their unit because of strata changes which will require them to pay significantly higher strata fees or have their unit included in the resort’s rental pool (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Couple living at Summerland resort facing increases

Permanent residents of Summerland Waterfront Resort told fees will more than double

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police are seeking further witnesses after an elderly woman who was struck by a vehicle in Salmon Arm succumbed to her injuries. (File Photo)
Salmon Arm pedestrian dies after being hit by truck along Highway 1

Collision took place on Jan. 15 in downtown Salmon Arm, police looking for witnesses

The sale of the Kirschner Mountain Development for $22M marks the largest in Realtor history, in the Okanagan. (Contributed)
Kelowna mountain development sold for $22M

The sale of the 640-acre Kirschner Mountain development has made the history books

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

Most Read