The return of services at Saint Michael and All Angels Anglican Church in Chemainus has been an adjustment for everyone, including Rev. Michael Wimmer.
“Generally, people are really happy to get back,” he said.
“From my point of view, it’s odd to not be celebrating mass for four months. To get back in the rhythm has been challenging. The whole ambience is different with people scattered around.”
Services resumed Sunday, July 12 and the following Wednesday for the first time since mid-March shutdowns under strict new protocols for COVID-19 issued from the Cowichan-Malaspina region archdeacon Clara Plamondon of Nanaimo.
A plan was sent out in June and a whole list of protocols had to be worked through, Wimmer explained, before church services could resume.
“The safety plan was submitted to the archdeacon a week or 10 days before we could open up on the 12th.”
Maintaining a safe distance meant a restriction on numbers. Saint Michael and All Angels was approved for 36 people in the church hall on Sundays and 27 in the church on Wednesdays.
The first two times there was an average of about 10 people in attendance Wednesdays and 24 on Sundays.
“I think they will gradually increase, provided we don’t get any bad news from Bonnie Henry,” Wimmer noted.
“There are a number of people who are choosing not to come back for their own reasons. Whether people come or not, that is their decision.”
Wimmer noted two other parishes in the region also started on July 12 that he heard about, but “it was left to each parish to make their own decision.”
Changes include sanitizers, no wine and chalice except for Wimmer as the celebrant, no coffee afterwards, no shaking hands and no hymn singing.
About four or five masked choir members sing the hymns. The words are printed on a bulletin for people and “I encourage them to hum,” said Wimmer.
Sanitizing of all surfaces is done in advance of services and people must sign in.
“It’s a lot of production and it’s a bit of an inconvenience,” Wimmer conceded.
But the parish has held up well and “people are generally in good spirits,” he added.
“So many of our people are retired so they’ve not been laid off work or anything.”
The church has been helpful in providing peace of mind for some in a turbulent time.