We need to pray for the church in Canada that she will be faithful to her Lord amid this pandemic. Many pastors think that the actions of a very small minority are actually hindering their Gospel witness. We need to pray for the resisters and their families.
As most of my readers know, I have been following closely the goings on of COVID and church life in Canada, my second home, where my wife and I served our first 19 years of ministry and where all of my children were born. If you ask them, they will proudly tell you they are Canadians! For my youngest, hockey is in his blood! We have dear friends across the country, many of whom I have kept in close contact with throughout this health situation. While things are opening up here in the United States—Governor Tim Walz of MN ended the mandatory mask mandate last week for those who have been vaccinated [yet another reason to be vaccinated], though some stores still ask/insist on masking—they are in severe lockdowns in Canada.
As we Americans celebrate the end of the mandatory mask mandate, the situation for Canadians from coast-to-coast is significantly different. Most of the country is severely locked down, affecting the livings of ordinary Canadians and prohibiting churches from holding “regular” services. Here is a sampling of the restrictions from British Columbia where no indoor church services are allowed.
Religious worship services may be held outdoors (including in open-sided tents and under overhead coverings). Before, during and after the service, people must not gather or socially engage.
- Up to 50 people may attend, plus 2 extra people to make sure rules are followed
- Participants must be 2 metres apart unless they live in the same private residence
- Drive-in worship events can continue to operate (No more than 50 vehicles may be present, and people who attend in a vehicle must remain in the vehicle)
- Musical groups of up to 5 musicians may perform
- The only people who can sing are soloists and worship leaders. The only people who can chant are worship leaders
Masks are required at all times by everyone in attendance.
- Masks can only be removed by soloists (when singing), worship leaders (when speaking, singing or chanting), readers (when reading out loud), or musicians who need to do so to play their instrument. They must maintain 3 metres of spacing or use a physical barrier
- Masks are not required for people who can’t wear a mask due to a condition or impairment or kids under the age of 12
- Collect information for contract tracing
- Supply hand sanitizer
- Caution those at risk, including seniors and those with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems, from attending
On the other side of the country, from Nova Scotia, things aren’t much better. As of April 28, 2021, “Faith gatherings are not permitted” and “Wedding ceremonies and funerals can have up to 5 people plus the person conducting the ceremony (receptions and visitation are not permitted).”
Canadians, as you might expect, are tiring of these restrictions. But in the light of the global situation, India, for example, things are not as bad in Canada because of these rigid rules. India has lost more than 1000 doctors to COVID-19 and countless medical workers. Entire families are being decimated. So Canadians generally are willing to put up with these oppressive measures in hopes of avoiding the Death Angel. “84% of Canadians have confidence in scientists, while only 52% have confidence in governments. However, 80% of Canadians trust the medical and health advice given by the Government of Canada. This suggests that confidence in medical experts generally outweighs doubts about governments.” One could argue that the lockdowns in the US and Canada have significantly contributed to the relatively “minor” effect (for the USA, 586k deaths since the pandemic began whether with COVID or from COVID and in Canada, 25k deaths). Canada’s population is less than 10% of the US yet their COVID deaths are less than 5% of the rate of the US. As severe as the restrictions are, they appear to be working. COVID deaths in India are now averaging 4k deaths per day which experts suggest is far from accurate.