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

UPlan, the Youth Planning Table subcommittee, decorated downtown Maple Ridge in honour of this years grads. (The News files)
Grad parties being planned by parents in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Four COVID-safe events being held at Pitt Meadows Golf Club

Valerie Miller met a small child at the vigil at the Maple Ridge bandstand, and found it an uplifting encounter during a dark time. (Special to The News)
LETTER: Encounter at Maple Ridge’s orange shirt memorial a bright spot

A small child showed the relentless optimism of kids

Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or in writing.
LETTER: Fond memories of a promising student

Former teacher recounts Olympic kayakers other feats as a child

Flyers are being distributed around the Albion area in an effort to protect the young bear.
Young bear in Albion needs help to survive

Maple Ridge Bears asks public to remove attractants

Jackie Brittain demonstrated her artistic talents when conceiving an idea and sketching out an award-winning advertising campaign for Golden Meadows Honey Farm. Her efforts have earned her back-to-back industry accolades, including a gold medal win at the BCYCNA Ma Murray Awards Thursday night.
VIDEO: Honeycomb sketches turn into back-to-back industry accolades for News

A honey ad and a quarterly lifestyle magazine produced by The News were lauded by B.C. news media

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

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

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

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

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

“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

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read