After months of being in lockdown amid coronavirus restrictions, places of worship in Manitoba were recently allowed to open with limited capacity. They’ll be allowed to welcome back even more people starting Friday, but some churches are deciding to sit out the latest round of reopening.
Manitoba’s new public health orders, which go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, allow indoor religious services to operate at 25 per cent capacity, or 100 people, whichever is lower.
Calvary Temple in downtown Winnipeg, which has the capacity to fit about 1,900 people, has decided to keep its main services online.
Executive pastor Jared Clarke said the new rules would only allow him to fill about five per cent of the space.
“We’re not quite ready to open up at that capacity level because we need to service a lot more people,” Clarke said. “By focusing on our online services we’re able to meet those needs better.”
Clarke said offering in-person services would also require a lot of volunteers to help make sure proper coronavirus protocols are being followed.
Those extra bodies, he said, would count towards the already limited capacity inside.
“Every church has to look and see what are their capabilities and then how can they best meet their mission,” Clarke said.
Synagogues are in a similar situation.
Two Winnipeg-area rabbis tell Global News they haven’t been taking advantage of the current 10 per cent capacity limit and that likely still won’t change once 25 per cent capacity is allowed.
Rabbi Yosef Benarroch, however, has been offering in-person services for two weeks at Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Synagogue.
He said it’s too important for some people to pray together.
“While Zoom has worked partially for us, it leaves a lot of gaps,” Benarroch said. “So for us, in-person services are extremely important.”
Benarroch’s synagogue can hold up to 350 people. His current limit is 30, although he hasn’t hit that number yet.
“We have a lot of people who are regulars who (are not) ready to come back now,” he said. “But we do have a core of about 10-15, maybe a little bit more, people who are participating now.”
Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said it’s too early to say when restrictions on places of worship will be revisited, meaning the latest capacity limit is here to stay for the time being.