Edmonton places of worship look to online services after province caps capacity at 15 people due to COVID-19

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Churches, synagogues and mosques are looking to alter their services once again after the province introduced tighter restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather earlier this week.

As of Wednesday, worship services in Alberta are limited to a total of 15 people in attendance, a change from a previous restriction of 15 per cent of fire code capacity.

Maureen Tabak, administrative coordinator with the West End Christian Reformed Church, said their congregation will move to online-only for the foreseeable future. She said those involved with putting on the service and making sure it is online will reach the 15-person limit.

“We were actually working on live streaming before COVID came into being,” said Tabak.

Tabak said that while the transition is a familiar one after they made the same pivot last March, it is still disappointing to have to send people home once again.

She said the church has been following all Alberta Health Services guidelines throughout the pandemic including extra sanitation, having visitors sign in and out, following mask rules and keep their distance from one another.

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With the latest restrictions in place for at least three weeks, she said she hopes they are short-term and everyone can come together to bring case numbers down.

“I think we’re hopeful, but you know how it goes. Everything seems to be changing. Not much you can do if people won’t get with the program,” Tabak said, “We’re encouraging people to go and get their vaccines and practice everything that they can, follow the rules.”

While the church goes online, Rabbi Ari Drelich of Chabad Lubavtich of Edmonton said virtual attendance is not permitted under Jewish law for Sabbath and other weekend proceedings.

“People basically are, I think mentally preparing themselves that listen, this is something we’ve all got to just buckle down for, for a short while, and please God you know we’ll get the numbers in order we’ll make them disappear, and then we’ll be back to regular schedule,” said Drelich.

With a relatively small congregation, Drelich said the latest restrictions won’t be too cumbersome to deal with but he is currently seeking clarity from the province on if they could have separate 15-person gatherings in separate rooms, similar to recent rulings in Ontario and Quebec.

Alberta Health did not respond to requests for clarification Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Association of Canada’s (MAC) Edmonton Mosques will also be moving most of their services online. Yasin Cetin, a spokesperson for MAC said the restrictions are coming at a tough time as they look to wrap up Ramadan services next week. He said they are following the 15 person capacity limits and requiring people to register online before coming to the mosque in person.

“It’s been quite the challenge for MAC,” said Cetin. “There’s been such a high demand that actually our registration systems have crashed a number of times.”

He said in normal, non-COVID times, the mosque would be filled this week with congregates breaking fast with one another.


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