Ada Slivinski: Nobody is saying public health orders shouldn’t apply. But surely there’s a way to let people connect with their faith – even alone, just for a moment.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent time in restaurants enjoying festive drinks, and wandered through crowded shops picking out gifts and holiday outfits. In a year that has demanded so many changes and sacrifices, some version of that old routine is welcome, but one important piece has been missing: we have not been able to go to church.
For many families around the provinces, visits to a church, temple, or synagogue provides the structure and meaning for their traditions and celebrations. Our family is one of them.
As Catholics, during the four weeks before Christmas, we watch as advent candles are lit on a wreath in church. It’s something I remember watching as a kid with great anticipation and excitement. This year, my kids are watching it virtually, through the TV screen in our living room.
In her press conferences, Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that church is not confined to a building. And in theory, she’s right. But in practice, the experience of physically walking into a house of worship, and gathering together has meaning that simply cannot be replicated through broadcast services – especially for kids.
The BC Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Civil Liberties association have written to Henry and BC Health Minister Adrian Dix, asking for them to reconsider the province’s religious restrictions.
“While it appears that perhaps the orders attempt to distinguish between social activities and commercial activities (limiting the former more significantly than the latter), in our view a religious service does not fit easily into either of these categories. Moreover, an attempt to define which venues are “essential” necessarily involves highly subjective value judgments,” they wrote.
They write the rules for religious venues stand in contrast to the rules for schools, workplaces, restaurants, pubs and bars, and retail establishments, and they’re right.
“Individuals engage in in-person worship services for a variety of reasons, but to compare these services to a night at the movies or theatre does a disservice to this constitutional right. For many, worshipping as part of a community is essential to their mental and spiritual health and wellbeing.”
Browsing the sales racks at Simons is not a constitutionally protected right, but religion is protected by the Charter.
Unfortunately, some irresponsible churches are making it easy to dismiss this plea. But setting aside the bad apples, nobody is saying public health orders simply shouldn’t apply. Of course we can’t continue packing the church like normal – right down to standing room only on Christmas Eve. But surely there must be a way to let people into church, perhaps one by one, or each family bubble, for a few minutes at a time. With every possible precaution, including masks and sanitization.
For Catholics like me, it might be to give a nod to the “reason for the season.” But for anyone who practices a faith, as an oasis of calm, spirituality, and normalcy in troubled times.
Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ada Slivinski last argued the secrecy over the Sahota deal in Vancouver obscured the real story: why so many people felt safer on the streets than one of their buildings.
- Suzanne Anton looked at BC’s late and reluctant mandatory mask order.
- May Q. Wong told the incredible story of Canada’s oldest synagogue – still standing (if closed for now) in downtown Victoria.