More Maritimes churches to reopen as larger gatherings permitted
HALIFAX -- It’s been a long time coming but a number of Catholic churches in the Maritimes will be welcoming the faithful back for the first time this weekend.
Some other places of worship have already reopened their doors, but not all parishioners are comfortable coming back just yet.
For the first time since March, Father Bill Burke will be opening the doors of his church in Sydney for indoor mass.
But while it may seem like a time to rejoice, he says he and parishioners are approaching it with mixed feelings.
“The first funeral I did after lockdown, we had four people,” says Burke. “This afternoon, we can have 75, so that’s a major improvement. So it’s an excitement about reopening, but a great deal of caution and a bit of lingering fear as well.”
Even with no known cases of COVID-19 on Cape Breton in several weeks, and strict protocols for reopening set by the Department of Health, Burke says some of the faithful will be staying home.
“I’ve had many others say ‘we’re just too nervous, we have underlying health conditions, we’re in the high risk group, we’re going to stay for a while’,” says Burke. “Not only do I understand that, I encourage that.”
On June 26, Premier Stephen McNeil announced that gathering limits will be increased on July 3. For an indoor event, included faith gatherings, weddings and funerals, buildings can host 50% of capacity of a maximum of 200 people.
In the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth, while some have opened their doors already, Archbishop Brian Dunn says he’s hearing from not only parishioners, but churches themselves, who are hesitant.
“Some parishes had masses last weekend, some are having it this weekend, and some are having it either next weekend or later on,” says Dunn. “And so one of the things that we said to them, is it’s very important to follow protocol, and make sure that all the conditions of reopening are followed, and so you can only open when you decide you can open.”
At Burke's St. Marguerite Bourgeouys Church in Sydney, people have had to phone ahead to reserve their place in the pews for Saturday or Sunday.
“We have to trace people,” explains Burke. “If there was an outbreak, we have to know who attended what celebration.”
One more wrinkle, he says, will be a lack of hymns, citing that it’s simply not safe yet to sing in groups.
Further proof that while going back to church is another step towards a new normal, we’re not quite there just yet.