My maternal Baba and Gigi were staunch Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Every Sunday, they used to attend services – referred to as meetings – at the Kingdom Hall. However, my grandparents developed health and mobility issues, making it difficult to drive into Arborg for meetings. The Kingdom Hall solved the problem. My grandparents were provided with a phone with conference call capabilities, and they were able to partake in the meetings from home.
That was in the late-1990s.
Manitoba’s COVID situation isn’t improving. The province has been under code red (restricted) for almost a month and the numbers aren’t dropping. On Sunday, November 29th, the Province of Manitoba announced 365 more cases, 336 people in hospital – and 44 in the ICU. We lost 11 more Manitobans, bringing the number of people the respiratory virus has stolen from family and friends to 301.
On Saturday, November 21, the province updated their health orders, closing churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and alike – including drive-in and drive-thru services. Religious leaders are allowed to hold services via the internet and remotely.
However, the ink was barely dry on the health order, when Tobias Tissen – Minister of the Church of God in the Rural Municipality of Hanover – held an in-person Sunday service. According to a CBC story, Tissen received a ticket and said, “That ticket and the whole idea and agenda behind them fining people does not make sense to me, because it goes directly against our constitutional rights.” On November 29th, Tissen attempted to hold a drive-in service, but, the RCMP barred vehicles from entering the parking lot.
This comes a day after Pastor Leon Fontaine of Springs Church in Winnipeg invited people into the church parking lot to hear “the word of God.” The church released a video before the service, promising, “We’ll have police present.” Yes, the police were definitely present.
You can listen sermons at home. You can worship from home. You don’t have to attend a bricks and mortar church to prove you’re dedicated to your faith.
During the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, all church services, funerals, and weddings were cancelled. People worshipped God at home. The Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania mailed their parishioners sermons and Bible materials. The church encouraged them to start their in-home Sunday service at 11 a.m. The theory was even though the congregation was separated, everyone could worship at the same time and feel connected.
This isn’t about Charter rights. This is about life and death. As for people travelling to churches, it’s household members only in the vehicle. No relatives or friends outside your bubble. If you live alone, you arrive alone. You’re allowed a household visit, not a road trip
However, it’s unfortunate that children are being dragged into this situation. Children are taken to services and they aren’t given a choice. Maybe they agree, but do they understand what they’re agreeing to? They’re impressionable and inquisitive, and they need to understand COVID with a sensible and truthful answer. But some adults are teaching them it’s okay not to listen to governing authorities. Saying God is the governing authority.
However, Romans 13:1-2 states: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God AND those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
My translation: a person is made in God’s image. If a person become part of a governing authority, we should listen to the authority. Anyone who opposes the governing authority is opposing God and will be punished.
I don’t have a religion, but I do have a Bible.
I understand the need for religion. The social aspect and isolation. The sense of community. But the people saying the lack of church service’s are contributing to drug addiction and mental health issues? These were issues pre-COVID. Now that we have COVID, you’re concerned about this issues? I’m not saying there hasn’t been an increase, I’m just questioning whether you’ll care post-COVID.
Will you visit your depressed neighbour who hasn’t showered in three months? Or that person who’s addicted to meth or fentanyl? That person you haven’t seen at church since last August who lost their partner to COVID. Maybe check on them.
Good Christians don’t decide whether they care about people. They always care about people. While they have different views and opinions, they don’t break laws to prove a point.
You will worship in your church with your congregation again. But for now, you must wait and obey the health orders.
Or your congregation might be smaller when you return.
Note: On Sunday, November 29th at 2:03 a.m. CT, Pastor Leon Fontaine of Springs Church was contacted via Messenger for an interview. While the message was viewed on Sunday, November 29th at 11:29 a.m. CT, no reply was received before the publication of this story.