The Capital Region of the province of Manitoba ( Winnipeg and several communities in the surrounding area moved back to the ORANGE stage effective Monday September 28, 2020 for at least four weeks or two incubation cycles. There have been questions sent to staff about how the Regional Council interprets the protocols for churches.
As the Executive Minister has stated on several occasions, the responsibility and privilege to interpret the implications of the Public Health Orders for local Communities of Faith rests with the governing body of the Community of Faith. Communities of Faith who have questions should direct them to the Health Authority through www.engagemb.ca
United Church of Canada governance as outlined in The Manual does not allow the Regional Council or General Council to make COVID-related decisions for communities of faith. However, these bodies can and do offer support, discernment, and planning resources, as well as regular space for conversation, support, and information-sharing.
On Friday, September 25th, 2020 during his press conference Dr. Roussin responded to a question about faith based communities by referring to the Public Health Orders previously in place that are specific to faith –based communities: they can open for “regular religious services” at up to 30% capacity with social distancing and hand sanitizing (section 19 of all the Health Orders details this).
That section clarifies that it is for “regular religious services“. Section 1 and section 19 (2) indicates that weddings and funerals regardless of where they are held are subject to the public gather limit. In the case of Winnipeg and area, that would be limited to 10 people indoors or outdoors at the time of writing (6 October 2020).
Communities of Faith will need to make decisions about other gatherings in a church building. Many churches in Prairie Mountain Health Region opted to interpret things conservatively and keep everything other than worship (religious services) down to the ten people in person, or to worship online. Whether they were required do that or not is unclear. Those wanting further clarification on those matters should check with the Health Authority.
Government of Manitoba or Ontario resources related to faith-based communities
General guidelines for Manitoba faith-based communities: https://www.manitoba.ca/asset_library/en/covid/restoring_faith_based_gatherings.pdf
Gathering limits in Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario-stages#gathering-changes
Health Orders for the capital region on September 28, 2020– section 19 applies to faith based communities:
Commentary on the Orange level : https://www.manitoba.ca/covid19/restartmb/prs/winnipeg/index.html