VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — On an important day for many, in-person services are still on hold this Christmas, but it seems churches are following the rules so far.
Some churches in Langley and Chilliwack have been opening their doors in recent weeks, violating COVID-19 restrictions in place until at least Jan. 8.
St. Joseph’s in Port Moody is one of the churches that isn’t going against the provincial health orders.
Father Mark McGuckin says his parish will stay closed this year since public safety is top of mind.
“We’re looking forward to the regular Christmas routine in 2021, but here we are. We have to make things work and be innovative,” he tells NEWS 1130.
He says people will still be showing up one-by-one to receive communion, but there won’t be any public service.
Even so, McGuckin admits the decision is difficult.
“We also cannot neglect mental health, spiritual health – what that component brings someone being in the church to spend some time in prayer,” he says, adding there haven’t been any Catholic churches with outbreaks.
Local faith-based organizations have questioned why bars are open while places of worship have to close, but Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has repeatedly said the province’s restrictions target areas in the community where transmission of COVID-19 is happening at a significant rate. These have included religious services and high-intensity group exercise classes, but not places such as schools, restaurants, and bars.
Any church that does open could be hit with a $2,300 dollar fine for breaking public health orders. Three churches in Chilliwack were fined a combined total of $18,400 last week.
NEWS 1130 has reached out to Mounties in Langley and Chilliwack, and they say they haven’t had any issues with churches breaking the rules on Christmas Eve.
-with files from Martin MacMahon