Churchgoers welcome ease in restrictions as in-person masses restart

By | July 26, 2020

WINNIPEG — Loosened restrictions for churches, mosques, powwows, and other spiritual events took effect this weekend as part of Phase 4 of Manitoba’s reopening plan.

It’s a long time coming for parishioners at St. George’s Anglican Church, who were able to attend an in-person service on Sunday.

Margo Foxford and her husband Giles Bugailiskis, who attended the service, said they haven’t been inside the church in quite a while due to COVID-19.

“It’s the first day that it’s been open to parishioners in a couple of months, and so it was kind of exciting to anticipate coming and being together,” said Foxford.

In Phase 3 of reopening, the province allowed faith-based gatherings to be held at 30 per cent capacity or a maximum of 500 people, but subgroups were required.

In Phase 4, subgroups and cohorts are no longer needed when attending spiritual events.

Before Sunday, St. George’s Church was live-streaming their services, but Bugailiskis said watching online isn’t the same as in person.

“Church is a community, and a community is not watching something on television,” said Bugailiskis.

Foxford and Bugailiskis said people need to decide on an individual basis if they’re comfortable going to an in-person service.

As for the couple, there’s no question they’ll be back Sunday.

Peter Flynn, a preacher at St. George’s Anglican Church, said even though they’re opening for in-person services again, a lot has changed.

“You go in, you squirt your hands (with sanitizer), of course, and you must wear masks. You cannot sing, and that’s a major difference,” he said.

Flynn said the service would typically include a choir and a large procession, but due to physical distancing measures, they chose not to.

The church has arrows along the floor to guide traffic, seats have been marked to ensure distancing, and a log is kept of all who attended.

Flynn said the church plans to hold a service every Sunday until they’re told otherwise.

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