By Justin Seward
Redcliff’s Gordon Memorial United Church has decided to wait until the next phase of re-opening until they allow its congregation back in the building.
“The main reason is the number of congregates we’re only allowed to have,” said Sharon Kirvan, the church’s treasurer.
“What we felt is because we only allow small numbers in the church, we thought we would wait until Phase 2, where instead of maybe a third of our normal attendance, we could have up to 50 people.”
Churches were allowed to re-open for services in Phase 1 on May 14, with either 50 people maximum or at one-third of its congregation, whichever is smaller and physical distancing in effect.
“Our congregation is quite small,” said Kirvan.
“So that would make the third, is what we would be able to have, and that would bring us down to about 15 people.”
Gordon Memorial United Church does not have a permanent minister and relies on Pulpit Supply, who are retired ministers that come in and provide the service.
“We’re not sure first of all if any of those people would want to come in because they’re all seniors. The majority of our congregation is seniors,” said Kirvan.
Kirvan does not see any problems with the restrictions in place to get people in the church.
“The social distancing would not be a problem for us. We have room in our church,” she said.
“We have a fairly big church for the number of people that we would get. We have room that we would be able to social distance everyone.”
Alberta Health Services has set out cleaning protocols that everything is to be cleaned and disinfected after use.
“That goes to the extent that the pews would have to be cleaned, all of the light switches, railings. Anything that could be touched by someone would have to be thoroughly cleaned,” she said.
“That would take quite a bit of manpower. We felt that right now for 10 to 12 people, say if not all of our seniors came, that’s an awful lot of additional work that at the present time would not be worth opening the church for.”
Kirvan thinks their place of worship is fortunate because between not having a full-time minister and enough of the congregants who pay a pre-authorized remittance monthly, those factors have helped with the COVID-19 impact.
Additionally, the sale of the minister’s residence and followers making donations from their wills have assisted too.
“We have enough of the funds coming in to cover our direct costs,” she said.
Congregational singing is considered a high risk and not allowed in the relaunch guidelines.
“One of the things the United Church of Canada wants if people do open their churches again to the congregation, is that their expectation is that not only the cleaning has to be thoroughly done, but everyone wear a mask and that there be no singing,” she said.
“People come to hear the word of the gospel. But they also come for the singing.”
Fellowship is prohibited in the church because of social distancing, she added.
Her hope is that by the fall that everything will be more lax and the church will be able to proceed with services because of the 100th anniversary in October.