By Treena Duncan, Executive Minister, Chinook Winds Region
It’s just over a week since the Alberta Government declared a State of Emergency in Alberta and instituted new restrictions. Since then, the City of Calgary has instituted a mandatory vaccination passport for certain businesses and activities (worship excluded) and we have fielded several questions about how the restrictions apply to churches.
Additionally, several of us attended a Faith Leaders telephone conference with Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Wednesday, September 22. Both Premier Kenney and Dr. Hinshaw urged churches to encourage people to be vaccinated and answered questions on the restrictions.
Dr. Hinshaw also said that her office will be providing further written guidelines on how places of worship can live within these restrictions.
In the meantime, we offer you the following:
- The United Church of Canada does not offer religious exemption for vaccinations.
- Public Worship is at 1/3 Capacity with masking and physical distancing in place.
- People should be reminded to stay home if unwell (doing so is a legal obligation)
- Masking and social distancing is required in all indoor spaces in Alberta
- Given that the Province has asked people to be working at home, the Region encourages congregations to hold meetings online rather than in-person as much as possible.
- Public Worship is considered a non-discretionary activity and as such does not require proof of vaccination documentation. However, in Calgary, non worship activities in churches require the proof of vaccination documentation. We would recommend that churches outside Calgary also follow suit.
- Weddings and funerals do not fall under the Places of Worship exemption. The province has determined that Funerals and Weddings are not considered worship, and are subject to the provinces restrictions for weddings and funerals, which is 50 people or 1/2 capacity of the building, whichever is less. In Calgary, proof of vaccination is required for these two events.
- In addition, it is the Region’s recommendation that churches not participate in the Restrictions Exemption Program for Weddings and Funerals in order to have a larger number of people attend than provincial restrictions allow. Our position throughout this pandemic has been one of caution, and while we realize that this is difficult, we feel obligated to not seek exceptions but rather to follow the restrictions as presented, recognizing it as the way to keep the most people, including our Church staff, safe.
- Churches are allowed to have rental groups in the building — IF they are groups or activities that are currently allowed by the State of Emergency restrictions. Rental Groups must follow the provincial guidelines. We should include an agreement to follow provincial guidelines in all of our rental agreements, and the rental group is responsible for ensuring they are followed. However, if we become aware that they are not being followed, we need to cease the rental arrangement.
- Singing continues to be considered a high risk activity… the Region recommends no congregational singing
- Communion- the Region recommends single serve communion.
We will continue to monitor the restrictions and guidelines provided by the Province and advise you accordingly.
You can reach out to Chinook Winds Staff with your queries or commentary.