Coronavirus: Winnipeg churches reopen amid loosened restrictions

Alamo Heights Baptist Church pastor Bobby Contreras, left, and his wife Hannah, work to clean, sanitize and prepare the church for services this Sunday, in San Antonio, Texas, May 6, 2020. AP Photo/Eric Gay

Winnipeg churches are cautiously reopening for Sunday services amid loosened COVID-19 restrictions.

The Church of the Rock, a charismatic evangelical church in Winnipeg’s south end, held its third in-person service this Sunday since restrictions on gathering sizes were loosened on June 21.

Provincial regulations allow for 50 people in an indoor space generally, but larger group sizes are also permitted where groups of 50 can be separated in a given space — provided the gathering is limited to 30 per cent of the space’s capacity.

Read more: Manitoba churches urge province to further loosen COVID-19 restrictions

For Church of the Rock, which can normally fit 1,900 people, that means about 550 people are allowed to sit for services, although the church has limited itself to 20 per cent capacity rather than 30 per cent.

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“There was a lot of logistics to work with — there has to be groups of 50, make sure that there isn’t a sort of a crossover and those kinds of things… people took a little while to get used to it,” said Aubrey Krahn, one of four pastors at the church.

“They had to get used to the personal space part because that’s sort of not who we are — we’re very relational… lots of hugs going around everywhere — we had to figure that part out.”

The church had been holding virtual services for years, but that skyrocketed amid the pandemic.

“Two months ago, we had this whole group of people online, we were really excited about it — we did Sunday morning services, we actually had live content every weeknight and had lots of engagement from people,” Krahn said.

But a live-streamed church service isn’t the same as in person.

“The first time I walked through the door, it was like, ‘Wow, real people, I can’t believe it’, and there was a big smile on their face and a big smile on my face,” Krahn said.

“That personal relational connection that you have is just deepened over a time like this; we realize we kind of took it for granted, being able to gather together and do those things — its just sort of what we all did and now it’s, like, wow, this is what we get to do.”

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