Island faith groups look ahead to ceremonies as vaccine rollout begins
VICTORIA -- With mass vaccination clinics open this week for seniors, the province says it's expecting to vaccinate 17,000 people on Vancouver Island by the end of this week.
On Monday, nearly 3,500 people on Vancouver Island got their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Coming with those shots is a sense of optimism that life may return to normal before long. That optimism extends to religious gatherings, and the chance of attending in-person faith services.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s chief health officer, indicated on Monday that small, in-person faith gatherings could happen soon and that guidelines on that would come in the next few days.
She also said consideration was being given to limited in-person gatherings for upcoming major religious festivals, like Passover, Easter, Ramadan and Vaisakhi.
Specifically, in relation to Passover and Easter, Henry said consultation and planning is taking place to allow for the possibility of some in-person gathering.
“(We're looking) to see how we can have some limited, in-person gatherings for those very important events,” said Henry Monday.
That news was welcome by the Rabbi Matthew Ponak at the Congregation Emanu-El Synagogue in Victoria.
“The possibility of having gatherings, in-person, even in a small way — that could possible be live-streamed, is a blessing,” said Ponak
But for 45 Anglican churches across Vancouver Island, the decision has already been made — it’s too late to change course for Easter and in-person services won’t be happening.
Bishop Anna Greenwood-Lee, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia — Islands and Inlets, said Tuesday that there isn’t enough notice to make proper plans for Easter.
“We are less than three weeks away from Easter and you can’t turn ship on a dime,” she said.
Greenwood-Lee also noted that many would likely still not feel safe, and that online services would provide a way for their community to feel connected.
“The most important things are to save lives and include people, and to me it seems the best way to do that is to have the services online,” she said.
The province has said it will be releasing more details about religious ceremonies in the coming days, and is aiming to have in-person faith gathering for all faiths by mid-April.