After months of closed doors, many of Sylvan Lake’s churches are once again welcoming their congregation back in the pews.
Church-goers started heading back for in-person worship at the beginning of the month, though many are still playing it safe and enjoying sermons from the comfort of their own homes.
Tim Bergmann, lead pastor at the Sylvan Lake Alliance Community Church, says throughout the pandemic there have been three factions; the red lights, those who are not ready or willing to mingle outside of their home; the yellow lights, those who are cautious; and the green lights, those who are ready and raring to be out and about.
Based on these three types of people, Bergmann says when reopening the church they kept those who were cautious in moving forward.
“We want to make sure that we are an inviting and safe place for those who want to come back but as still cautious when it comes to the pandemic,” Bergmann said.
He continued saying church should be a pace that doesn’t pass judgment.
In the current climate there are still many who have chosen not to return to worship centres, and he says that is fine.
“I think we have seen maybe a third of our congregation come back to the church. The rest are still tuning in virtually,” he said.
While making the church comfortable in a world of social distancing, Bergmann says having an increased online presence will continue moving forward.
“I think [online content] is going to be here to stay, and churches, as well as businesses, are going to have to adjust how things are being done,” said Bergmann.
“It’s not something we were prepared for or even taught to do, but its something we are all learning.”
Following the direction from Alberta Health, churches are making room for social distancing. At the Alliance Community Church pews have been removed to allow for distancing between families and cohort groups.
Hand wash stations and hand sanitizer has also been made available.
While many returning to the church are cautious, Bergmann says his congregation seems happy to be back inside the church on Sundays.
“Humans are social by design, we need and crave community. That is why I think faith and the church are so important right now, it gives people that sense of community,” Bergmann said.
Some churches also added additional worship times to allow for more people to come to a service, while still following the social distancing mandates.
In Sylvan Lake, churches such as Alliance Community Church, Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventist are asking patrons to register for their worship ahead of time or are being screened and asked a questionnaire when they enter the building.