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Some Cape Breton churches staying closed for now after COVID-19 shutdown

Rev. Dorothy Miller and Kenneth Alexander were smiling and laughing during the first part of their Facebook Live faith service for Collieries Parish in Glace Bay. Like many churches in Cape Breton, Collieries Parish has turned to online worship services, Bible studies and prayer meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. CONTRIBUTED
Rev. Dorothy Miller and Kenneth Alexander were smiling and laughing during the first part of their Facebook Live faith service for Collieries Parish in Glace Bay. Like many churches in Cape Breton, Collieries Parish has turned to online worship services, Bible studies and prayer meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. CONTRIBUTED
GLACE BAY, N.S. —

Some churches in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are choosing to delay reopening after being forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Knox and Warden United churches in Glace Bay, along with the five churches in the Collieries Parish group, are some that are sticking with virtual services instead of resuming in-person worship.

“We’ve been having conversations throughout the pandemic about reopening and… one of the concerns about reopening is the health and safety of our congregation,” said Rev. Alison Etter who presides over Knox and Warden United churches. 

“We’re proceeding slowly with opening plans. We’re taking a lot of time to consider how we do it and make sure our congregation is not put at risk… It’s not just our congregation members who are in an older age category who could be at risk. There are also younger people with health conditions.” 

Rev. Dorothy Miller, from the Collieries Parish group, said they’re also staying closed to protect parishioners at risk of getting severely ill if they contract COVID-19. 

“The fragility of (the COVID-19 recovery stage) makes opening up seem a bit premature for us at this time,” said Miller. “We are working on a plan right now, and things can change, but the plan is to continue with our Facebook live streaming sermons and open our doors again in September.”

Below: Collieries Parish evening prayer service from Rev. Dorothy Miller, held on Tuesday, June 30.

The five Cape Breton churches included in the Collieries Parish Group are St. Mary’s in Glace Bay, All Saints in New Waterford, Good Shepherd in Dominion, St. Luke’s in Port Caledonia and Christ Church in South Head. 

Miller said the parish group committee, which consists of a representative from each church, met to discuss reopening and decided staying closed was best. 

“There is a program in our Anglican churches, the Safe R Church program, which dictates we must do due diligence to ensure the safety of our whole congregation,” she said. 

“When we weighed the benefits to reopening our building right now and the risks it could pose to our congregation, we decided to stay closed.” 

Etter said they aren’t sure when they’ll resume in-person services at Knox or Warden United churches but are considering a summer service held either outside or inside. 

Miller said they are considering holding an outdoor service but nothing is confirmed.

Along with protecting congregation members, Etter said they also have to determine how to deliver their in-person services while following the provincial COVID-19 health protection guidelines.

“When folks come to a church, we want everyone to feel at home,” she said. “At a time when we’re being asked to keep track of everyone who attends, not sit together, not hug or shake hands, not sing… We have to consider how to do this but also still make sure people feel warmly welcome when they enter the door.”

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