Okanagan faith groups celebrate religious holidays with no COVID restrictions

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Okanagan faith groups celebrate holidays with no worship restrictions
Okanagan faith groups celebrate holidays with no worship restrictions – Apr 15, 2022

It’s a significant time of year for many religious groups. Christians are marking Good Friday. Muslims are in the midst of the month of Ramadan and the Jewish community will begin celebrating Passover on Friday evening.

And this year there faith groups are able to gather without COVID-19 restrictions on worship services.

Read more: Quebec Christians mark Good Friday with return of Way of the Cross procession

When Trinity United Church in Vernon, B.C. celebrates Easter this weekend, it will be the first time the church has marked a major holiday in person since 2019.

“I think so much of our faith is relational and relationships, and so for the community to be able to come together again and celebrate a significant festival in the Christian year is huge,” said Rev. Robin Jacobson.

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“Good Friday and the Easter Sunday service are an enormous part of our Christian calendar so really excited about being able to do that.”

Read more: Easter church services not limited by restrictions in Ontario for 1st time since 2019

The church is still recommending masks and some members of the congregation are opting to stick with virtual services.

“People are really nervous about coming out, so we are probably getting about half or less than the normal number of people coming out. But those who are coming out are loving it,” said Jacobson.

“We keep masks so the singing is kind of muted, but just to be able to have real people and to have that real sense of contact is huge.”

Muslims at the Kelowna Islamic Centre are marking Ramadan this month. Spokesperson Hamid Butt says it’s a shift from the last two years as people are now able to gather more freely, which is an important part of celebrating the holy month.

“Ramadan is the special month. We call it the training month for the rest of the year. So bringing people in, getting together, and feeling the love and affection of that brotherhood and the sisterhood, is very critical and important, Butt said.

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Read more: Ramadan, Passover and Good Friday celebrated in Calgary with first in-person events since COVID began

During COVID, the Islamic Centre has had various precautions in place, including capacity limits and spacing prayer mats six feet apart, so dropping restrictions on worship services is welcome.

“It’s just incredible. Everybody felt some sort of relief but at the same time we are also making people aware, ‘Don’t let your guard down.’ We are not out of the woods but I think if everybody is vaccinated we probably will manage better this year, Butt said.

The Islamic Center is back to holding nightly fast-breaking dinners this Ramadan, which it couldn’t do in 2020, and could only do in a limited way in 2021.


Read more: COVID-19: Kingston, Ont. region top doctor urges caution over Easter long weekend

In 2020, ahead of the Easter weekend, the province was telling people not to travel unless it was essential, not to attend large gatherings, recommending people celebrate religious holidays virtually. At that point even provincial parks were closed.

In 2021, on Easter weekend, indoor gatherings at private homes were banned in B.C. and worship services were required to be outdoors with capacity limits.

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— with files from The Canadian Press

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