New vaccine rules leave some faith groups with difficult choice

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During the Navaratri festival which begins later this week, members of Winnipeg’s Hindu community will be required to show proof of immunization before entering one of their two temples.

“We decided to check vaccination cards and a piece of ID for prayer services,” said Jay Jeyanthan, president of the Hindu temple on St. Anne’s Road.


Members of Winnipeg’s Hindu community will be required to show proof of immunization before entering one of their two temples in support of a new public health order aimed at limiting the impact of Wave Four of COVID-19 in Manitoba. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

More than 1,000 Hindus have been informed by email of the policy, which follows a new public health order that goes into effect Tuesday at 12:01 am.

The ordinance allows fully vaccinated people and people under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine to assemble for church services with no capacity limit.

Indoor religious gatherings that include eligible but unvaccinated people are limited to 25 people or 33% of capacity, whichever is greater. People attending religious services in Manitoba should always wear masks indoors and maintain two meters physical distances between household groups.

Jeyanthan expects members of his community to comply with the new order for the nine days of prayer, which begins Thursday, or to stay home to follow online services.

“God welcomes us all on the basis of grace and therefore saying that one type of person is welcome and the other can worship at home does not follow that grace.” ‐ Reverend David Funk of the Niverville Community Community, part of the Mennonite Mission Evangelical Church

This latest health decree marks the first time that religious groups have to decide whether they will distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The change is welcomed by some and is met with unease by others, who do not want to limit who is allowed to enter their building, both for practical and theological reasons.

“God welcomes us all on the basis of grace and therefore saying that one type of person is welcome and the other can worship at home does not follow this grace,” said Rev. David Funk of Niverville Community Fellowship, part of the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Church.

Worshipers will not be asked to provide proof of vaccination next Sunday, he said, adding that the in-person attendance has averaged around 121 people, well below a third of the maximum capacity of the church of 482.

Winkler’s Pathway Community Church has also chosen to follow the third party capacity guideline rather than asking for proof of vaccine in a community where spirits are already heated from wearing masks or being vaccinated against COVID-19. .

Winkler has a double vaccination rate of 38.5 percent and the surrounding MR of Stanley stands at 21.8 percent, the lowest in Manitoba. Provincially, 81.1% of eligible people had received two injections on Monday.

“We don’t feel good asking people whether they are vaccinated or not,” said Reverend Rob Haslam of Pathway, whose congregation is under the denomination of the Evangelical Free Church.

“This is one more step we want to take while respecting this coming mandate.”

His congregation meets twice on Sunday mornings at a rented church gymnasium, where a third of the capacity means 250 people could attend.

Roman Catholics in the Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface will not be asked for proof of vaccination, a decision made more than a month ago by Bishop Albert LeGatt.

“We don’t feel good asking people if they are vaccinated or not. It is one more step that we want to take while respecting this mandate which is coming.” ‐ Rev. Rob Haslam, Winkler’s Pathway Community Church (a denomination of the Evangelical Free Church)

Winnipeg’s Muslim community will need to show their vaccination cards and photo ID before entering mosques for prayers or programs, said Tasneem Vali, vice president of the Manitoba Islamic Association.

“Yes, we will be an organization that will verify (proof of) vaccination according to provincial guidelines, to ensure the safety of people using our facilities and to accommodate as many people as possible,” she said.

People attending Friday prayers at the Great Mosque on Waverley Street or the Pioneer Mosque on Hazelwood Avenue could face a wait to enter as volunteers check vaccination cards and identification.

Vali said members of the MIA board had discussed at length whether to ask worshipers to disclose their vaccination status before entering, as mosques are traditionally open to everyone.

“I wish (the province) said, ‘This is what you have to do,’ because making a choice is a moral dilemma,” Vali said. That was the debate. ”

The United Church of Meadowood had already implemented a policy requiring proof of vaccine before public health orders changed this week, in part influenced by the example of the Jewish community, Reverend Caryn Douglas said.

“I made the theological argument that we have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable and that we provide the maximum protection to our children if we are all vaccinated,” said Douglas, who estimated that about 90% of the members of the church received two injections.

“It gives people a sense of security.”

In August, the Winnipeg rabbis urged the Jewish community to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because saving or preserving a life is central to Jewish ethics and values. Most of the city’s synagogues also required proof of vaccination to attend their high holiday services last month.

Members of Temple Shalom, a Reform Jewish congregation, have fully embraced the decision to restrict live participation to those who are fully vaccinated and masked, Rabbi Allan Finkel said. People show their vaccination card and photo ID when they arrive and are added to a master list so they only have to show proof the first time, he said. .

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“While this does not apply directly to us, I understand that there is a positive incentive for faith groups and spiritual leaders to encourage healthier communities by encouraging vaccinations,” he said of the report. of the new provincial order.

River East Church is asking that worshipers be vaccinated, if they are eligible, but does not plan to ask for evidence.

“We are communicating strongly: ‘Please get vaccinated if you enter the building for worship services,’ but (we do not require) proof,” said Pastor Mary Anne Isaak.

A third of the capacity of the River East building could accommodate 100 people, Isaak said.

“The number of people who want to come (to worship) will not be close to 33%,” she said.

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Brenda Suderman

Brenda Suderman
faith reporter

Brenda Suderman has been a columnist for the Saturday Newspaper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment and faith and religion since 2006.

Read the full biography


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