'I needed clarification': Some religious leaders in Alberta say reopening guidelines are confusing
EDMONTON -- Some local churches welcomed back parishioners back on Sunday after the province eased restrictions on religious gatherings in its first stage of reopening.
However, there is still some confusion as to what exactly is allowed. While churches could resume services, capacity was restricted and parishioners had to maintain physical distancing.
Pastor Chad Fisher opted against allowing people inside.
“There were some things I outlined, one I needed clarification, and two I felt we were stepping on the rights and freedoms we have as a church," he said.
Upon entering the first stage of reopening, the province released guidelines for places of worship, including gatherings of up to 50 people, or one third of their normal worship service attendance, whichever is smaller.
But Fisher says he's unclear how many people could be in his church.
"In our situation, our general attendance is between 50-65 people so we can definitely reduce it to 50, but if we are supposed to reduce it down from our typical attendance, does that mean we have to reduce down to 20?"
Another guideline Fisher takes exception with is the ban on congregational singing, as the province calls it a high risk of transmission stating there is a lack of evidence as to what a safe distance is to prevent spreading.
"By making that order of not singing, they are basically telling us how to express or practice our faith," he said.
Singing could be heard during a service at Cornerstone Baptist church in Edmonton; however, Pastor Brian Rice said it didn't violate the province's directive of no congregational singing.
"We're just having special music where we are having the soloist today and we had two sisters singing today, separate from the congregation so they are by themselves on a platform separated from the congregation so that is absolutely not congregational singing," said Rice.
Rice says he believes the guidelines are clear. He said his church has adopted many new measures to encourage physical distancing, including signage, floor markings every two meters and enhanced sanitation practices as advised by the province.
He also says the province is expected to have a virtual town hall meeting with local religious leaders this week.