Winnipeg religious communities respond to the arrival of COVID-19

Soul Sanctuary church opted to tell the congregation to stay home while a live stream of church was shared online. Amber McGuckin/Global News

The pastor is ready with his message, the worship team is performing, but the church building is empty. That’s what the Sunday morning service at Soul Sanctuary looked like.

The Winnipeg church decided to move the service online after COVID-19 arrived in Manitoba.

“Our faith is much bigger than the room we meet in,” lead pastor Gerry Michalski said.

“We’re asking people to gather around their computer, TV — however they’re taking it in — and join us for the live stream event.”

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Michalski said his church decided the move was the socially responsible thing to do.

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“We are doing it for the healthcare professionals, to take the strain off and for those who are highly at risk and for ourselves,” he said.

Other churches around the city also took this approach, including Oasis Church, Calvary Temple, and Grant Memorial Church.

Word of Life Church in Niverville is cancelling Sunday services. Global News

On Sunday the province says the number of presumptive and confirmed COVID-19 stands at seven, with three more presumptive cases having been identified, including one person in the Interlake.

Public health officials continue to recommend social distancing and suggest cancelling or postponing any large-scale events with more than 250 attending.

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: All Manitobans ‘strongly advised’ against international travel amid COVID-19 spread, public health official says'
Coronavirus outbreak: All Manitobans ‘strongly advised’ against international travel amid COVID-19 spread, public health official says

Idris Elbakri, chair of the board of the Manitoba Islamic Association, says that’s why mosques cancelled Friday prayers for the time being.

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“When we have big congregations we have 2,000 people sometimes and we have people travelling internationally all the time. The way we worship — we stand in rows close together.

“Friday morning we thought it was best, following the provincial update, to cancel Friday prayers for that week and until further notice,” he said.

“It was a difficult decision, but I think it had to be made because we wanted everyone’s safety and health to come first.”

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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