Worshipping in large numbers and offering outreach programs have suddenly become a challenge for Kamloops churches in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions of gatherings of no more than 50 people.
Kamloops Alliance Church in North Kamloops was ahead of the game, taking its services online following the original ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. But following Monday’s government announcement that lowered that limit to 50, the large church at the north end of Overlanders Bridge is re-assesing its options.
“We have suspended all ministry programming until further notice,” lead Pastor Chris Throness told KTW.
He said he is encouraging church members to keep their eyes on the church website at kamloopsalliance.com for the updated information.
Kamloops United Church, downtown at St. Paul Street and Fourth Avenue, also made the difficult decision to close its doors and suspend all worship services and programming, with two exceptions.
The church’s pre-school will continue to operate and the PIT (People In Transition) Stop program, which feeds close to 250 people in need every Sunday, will continue, with additional health precautions in place.
Rev. Dr. Michael Caveney will also be posting each morning at 10 a.m. to the United Church’s YouTube page in order to keep his congregation connected and inspired.
In one of those recent videos, he said, “We will seek to meet as often as possible by electronic means. Over the next few weeks, we will be rolling this out to various groups in the congregation.”
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, on Sixth Avenue in Sagebrush (South Kamloops) was already preparing to make the move toward broadcasting services exclusively online, a decision that was helped by the fact the church had already been livestreaming the sermons for the past few months.
“We talked a couple of weeks ago about extending that to have the whole service live,” said Pastor Steven Filyk, who is vacationing near Prince George this week.
He said there will need to be a discussion among the church’s elders, but noted services will likely include a very small gathering of the preacher, the music director and a few others to put the program together.
“There’s a good probability we’ll be closing,” he said. “But the reality is not all of our members are on Facebook, not all of them are on the internet, so I think that the bigger challenge for us will be to keep in touch with people on an individual basis.”
The church’s Grab and Go Breakfast program, scheduled to begin at nearby South Kamloops secondary, will be delayed as a result of in-person classes being suspended indefinitely.
Filyk said discussions continue with respect to the fate of the church’s other groups, such as the choir, men’s group and knitting circle.
Kamloops Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Phuong Nguyen has released a statement dispensing followers from the obligation of attending Sunday mass until further notice and confirming the April 17 Chrism mass will be closed to the public.
The 75th Diocesan anniversary celebrations scheduled for May 30 have been cancelled, as have the Parish Lenten Penitential Services scheduled for March 26 at OLPH. Provision to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation will still be available on Saturdays from 3 p.m. or by appointment.
Nguyen added that each Catholic parish will continue to offer daily mass, including on Sundays, with health precautions in place, such as social distancing (a space of at least two metres/6.5 feet between people), removal of hymnals, prayer cards and other items from pews and locating collection baskets at the rear of churches.