Houses of worship are changing how they minister to their members due to the coronavirus, with some shutting their doors completely and using technology to continue communicating.
Churches, mosques and synagogues in Saskatchewan were initially exempt from the number of people who could meet in one location. However, that changed on March 16, when the Saskatchewan Health Authority declared that faith-based organizations had to obey public gathering restrictions of no more than 50 people.
It is advisable to check the website or social media page of any church in Moose Jaw to learn how it is handling this time.
The Islamic Association of Saskatchewan — Moose Jaw has taken similar health precautions at its Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq mosque on Lancaster Road as most churches, such as not shaking hands and using hand sanitizer.
Specific changes include encouraging members to bring their own prayer mats; suspending madrassa classes immediately; urging children and seniors to stay away; prohibiting entry to anyone who has or could have COVID-19; and encouraging people who have been overseas to isolate themselves.
The organization is closely following the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said Imam Saisal Jibril. Any time there is an announcement, the mosque updates its website. Since its big weekly gathering is Friday, the mosque’s board is waiting until the last minute to announce whether that will happen.
Watch its website at https://iasmoosejaw.com for more info.
While the SHA has said only 50 people are allowed in one place, the mosque has decided only 30 people can worship at one time, Jibril continued. When 30 worshippers arrive, the outside doors are locked. That group prays, before being let out and others allowed in.
“So far we don’t have anybody who is sick. Everyone is healthy, but we still have to take precautions … ,” he said, adding safety is a top priority. “We (also) need to pray. That is the key point. It’s a big challenge. We need God’s help.”
In a letter to parishioners, Bishop Rob Hardwick with the Anglican Diocese of Qu’Appelle declared that all regular church services, study groups, fundraising events and other social gatherings were suspended immediately.
This means St. Aidan Anglican Church on High Street West is also closed. However, plans are underway to stream online upcoming Sunday services. Watch its Facebook page or website (www.staidan.ca) for more info.
“At such a time as this, the most important thing for us is to stay calm, to not be afraid, to be safe, and to pray. We will get through this,” Hardwick wrote.
Each congregation is encouraged to develop a plan for ongoing pastoral care since it’s paramount to reach out to people and neighbours during times of isolation. Hardwick noted Christians can still be the Church even without a building.
“Care for neighbour is vital, but so is worship, so I encourage all to engage in prayer. Our God has led his people through many times like this in our history and God will lead us through this pandemic,” he added.
In another letter recently sent to the premier, and mayors and reeves where Anglican churches are, Hardwick offered the use of the buildings for such issues as meetings, assessments, storage, or treatment centres if the crisis worsens.
Roman Catholic churches have been directed to close by March 20, according to a letter from Archbishop Donald Bolan. This means St. Joseph Church and Church of our Lady in Moose Jaw will no longer offer services.
“At this time, the Church must weigh what appear to be competing values: the health and safety of our broad civic community, especially of the most vulnerable, saving lives, and the immense spiritual value of access to the liturgy of the Church and sacraments,” Bolan wrote.
While all Sunday and weekday masses are cancelled, and recognizing that “the Eucharist lies at the very heart of our spiritual lives,” daily and Sunday masses led by Bolan will be live-streamed from Regina.
Baptisms, funerals and weddings should be limited to immediate family, while larger celebrations can occur once restrictions are lifted, urged Bolan. All information about Holy Week celebrations, sacramental preparations, first communions and confirmations, ministry to the sick and other outreach initiatives can be found at archregina.sk.ca.
“The Lord is never absent from us. We are called, not only in times of joy and celebration, but in times of trial and sorrow, to live faithfully, meaningfully and compassionately,” he added. “Even as we follow the most prudent health directives and honour our Christian duty to protect the vulnerable, we are called to be present to and with one another, if not physically, then spiritually.”