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Calgary bishop says its important for faithful to gather at Christmas services during pandemic

Click to play video: 'Calgary bishop says it’s important for faithful to gather at Christmas services during pandemic' Calgary bishop says it’s important for faithful to gather at Christmas services during pandemic
Catholic Christmas masses are going ahead in Calgary while some United Church services will be on-line only because of the pandemic. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Dec 24, 2021

It will be yet another silent night at Hillhurst United Church in northwest Calgary. This is the second Christmas that services will be held on-line.

In fact, the last in-person service held at the church was in March 2020.

“It was a heartbreaking and difficult decision to close for a second year in a row,” said John Pentland, lead minister at Hillhurst United Church.

This year, church leaders at Hillhurst United are urging other places of worship to go on-line too because of COVID-19.

Read more: Canadians differ on holiday plans amid Omicron COVID-19 spread

“The advice we are getting is that (services) could be super-spreaders.  It’s really important that all large gatherings be limited, so we feel it’s important to remain closed to save lives,” Pentland said.

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Calgary Bishop William McGrattan said he’s grateful that people in Alberta are still allowed to gather at churches this Christmas.

He said it’s important for the followers’ emotional and mental well-being to be able to attend mass during the holidays.

Read more: COVID continues to cancel Calgary’s corporate Christmas parties

“To have people gather at Christmas can, for some, be a real source of support and encouragement, especially those who don’t have family members,” McGrattan said. “They come and they see other parishioners and they have this sense of extended family and community and they miss that. Especially the older parishioners.”

He said no Catholic churches in Calgary have cancelled Christmas masses.

“I think despite these restrictions, provided we maintain those safety measures, I think it’s important that we do gather this Christmas and celebrate this gift of Christ’s birth,” McGrattan said.

Click to play video: 'Steinbach pastor on religious services during holidays' Steinbach pastor on religious services during holidays
Steinbach pastor on religious services during holidays – Dec 21, 2021

McGrattan will be conducting midnight mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral on Christmas Eve.

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He said more services were added this year because of restrictions that limit places of worship to one third capacity.

Read more: Calgary church leader discourages thinking with ‘toxic individuality,’ encourages community

Knox United Church made the call last week to hold services on-line only because of the Omicron variant surge.

Rev. Greg Glatz said isolation has been hard on people, but his Christmas message is about finding light in the darkness.

“I think if you’re looking for light, find a connection. Reach out make a connection somewhere. Maybe that connection is on-line but just make a connection,” Glatz said.

Click to play video: 'Religious gatherings in Ontario face restrictions, but not hard limits' Religious gatherings in Ontario face restrictions, but not hard limits
Religious gatherings in Ontario face restrictions, but not hard limits – Dec 23, 2021

“I think the light is found in connection. We see our work as helping to connect to God and to each other, to connect to their true selves and to connect to creation. Any way we can be making a connection in our lives is where we’re going to find the light.”

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People attending places of worship in Alberta are not required to show proof of vaccination to attend.

McGrattan said he’s been encouraged by the number of people he’s seen reaching out to those who need help.

“People realize that they are blessed and they want to share that blessing with those who are less fortunate and that reality is always found at Christmas and despite the pandemic I find that it’s stronger than ever,” McGrattan said.

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