Places of Worship under stress due to COVID-19

As the province moves into stage 3 of the pandemic, people are asking many questions around people gathering indoors for religious services, rites or ceremonies, and wedding ceremonies or funeral services.

For most places of worship, social gatherings and music play an integral role.

According to Public Health however, in this time of pandemic, there are many restrictions.  For example, religious places of worship/churches can only continue to fill up to 30 per cent of the capacity of a particular room, as introduced in Stage 2.

There are also several considerations for Places of Worship to consider:

  • Continue to monitor the local and provincial situation and measures that are in place.
  • Consult with local, provincial and national networks for suggestions on how services and ceremonies can be adapted to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Education and Training
  • Ensure staff are trained and knowledgeable about current practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Consider ways to greet each other from a distance.

  • Do not shake hands, hug or elbow bump.
  • Eliminate communal items touched by multiple people, such as those used during communion or bulletins that are passed out.
  • Limit singing and loud speaking. Consider the respiratory droplets created when singing or speaking loudly. Avoid singing together. Consider solo performances, instrumental music or pre-recorded music.

The following practices are recommended:

  • No congregational singing and chanting. Spoken responses should be in a low voice. Leaders should use microphones unless the space is very small.
  • No choir. A single cantor or soloist may be used, but should be located away from the congregation (e.g. minimum of four metres), facing sideways or behind a screen, or otherwise separated from the congregation, but not in a balcony. Consider using recorded music, including of your own choir.
  • With instrumental music (e.g. piano, organ, but not wind instruments), if more than one is being played, ensure physical distancing, unless players are from the same household.

Special considerations for not providing or sharing food as a part of religious services or ceremonies will be needed. Community food programs like take away meals and food banks may still operate with the support of faith-based organizations.

It is also advised that an up-to-date contact list of staff, volunteers and attendees to support public health contact tracing be maintained along with consideration for tracking attendance.

For many who attend various places of worship in the area, they are not anxious to return to their individual churches.  According to one member of a congregation, “I do not want to attend a service yet … things are still too unpredictable.”

Unfortunately, for many places of worship, a large part of their existence is dependent on individual donations at time of service and therein lies the problem without attendance.