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Monday marks reopening of places of worship in Calgary

 John Pentland from Hillhurst United Church will be waiting until Labour Day to decide when they will be opening up in Calgary on Monday, June 1, 2020.
John Pentland from Hillhurst United Church will be waiting until Labour Day to decide when they will be opening up in Calgary on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Monday marked the reopening of places of worship in Calgary and Brooks, part of the final elements of the first stage of the province’s relaunch strategy.

But it was an uneventful day for many religious centres and denominations around the city as many are taking a gradual approach to opening their doors.

Kehilat Shalom, a synagogue in the southwest, is not resuming indoor services as of yet and will continue offering programs online. Rabbi Leonard Cohen realizes that their community is anxious to return to the centre, but said Monday that protecting people remains the priority.

“Even though the government is making it possible to do so, I’d say there’s greater considerations,” Cohen said. “From a Jewish perspective, there’s a notion called pikuach nefesh, which is the idea that saving or protecting a life overrides all other considerations.

“If we were to reopen services and just one person got sick from it, it would be too much. It would be unacceptable.”

The Calgary Buddhist Temple in Bridgeland and other Buddhist centres around Calgary plan to convene this week to go over their updated procedures and open their doors to a small group. Rev. Robert Gubenco said members continue to stay connected to each other and their faith through online meetings.

The Sikh community is also holding off on reopening until they feel their members are safe from the coronavirus.

Downtown at Knox United Church, Rev. Greg Glatz said while members of the congregation are anxious to return, “we really do not want to rush into anything that will put vulnerable people at risk.”

The Muslim community of Calgary — which just finished Ramadan celebrations over the weekend — officially opened mosques to the public on Monday.

Mostafa Hassan, chairman of the Muslim Council of Calgary Foundation, said the organization caters to roughly 80,000 to 100,000 worshippers in Calgary and surrounding areas. There are 10 centres in the city and all have been advised to follow the provincial guidelines, which include restrictions on services and faith-based activities to no more than 50 people or one-third of the building capacity, whichever is less.

They are encouraging masks and physical distancing, which can be a difficult thing for the nature of practising Muslim prayer.

“When we pray, we have to stand shoulder to shoulder next to each other — it’s empowering for the whole community to come together,” Hassan said. “But people are co-operating and it was amazing . . . Although they can’t shake hands or hug each other before and after, at least they can see each other.”

Bishop William McGrattan of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary said that Monday marked the first day of public celebrations of mass in their parishes, although the churches were open for individual prayers, small weddings and funerals during the lockdown.

“People have longed for the opportunity to come and celebrate and worship once again,” he said. “It’s awakened in people a deep sense of their spiritual lives for some.”

kanderson@postmedia.com
Twitter: @KDotAnderson

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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