While some churches are jumping on board to in-person services this weekend with the easing of restrictions, others are not quite ready.
On June 23, 2021, at 11:00 am, Premier Brian Pallister alongside Dr. Brent Roussin announced that starting June 26 at 12:01 am, churches would be able to host in-person gatherings up to 25 per cent capacity or 25 people, whichever is less, as well as able to host outdoor services with up to 50 people. Other restrictions are still in place, like wearing masks indoors and distancing outside.
"I think it's probably a fairly measured plan to do some reopening," says Pastor Erik Parker of Sherwood Park Lutheran Church in Winnipeg. "It seems like a safe emphasis on outdoor gatherings."
Sherwood Park will not be rushing to host in-person services this weekend, or even in July.
"For us, I'm going on holidays through July. We won't be rushing back to gathering just yet, but likely in August, if things progress we'll look at doing some outdoor things."
Parker says his church will look at moving to indoor services for the congregation starting in September.
Pastor Andrew Bawa of NextGen Worship Centre is thrilled with the recent provincial announcement.
"Praise God. We are starting this Sunday and I'll give the announcement today when I go to do Livestream," says Bawa.
He has seen some negative effects on his congregants during the restrictions. Some have felt isolated with no in-person services.
"I'm just grateful to God that we've been able to get to this level. I know it took a toll on so many people. A few of us pastors gather [online] to meet and fast every Monday and we pray for the city and pray against this pandemic."
Bawa sees the lifting of restrictions and online church services only as a great starting place. He is excited to worship with people again.
"I look forward to being opened fully and everybody can come."
Wendy Thom pastors the Baptist church in Shoal Lake, Man. She's also set to retire on June 30, with her last Sunday service approaching on June 27. Initially, it looked as though she would be preaching her final sermon to a video camera. "That would be awesome," she says when thinking about getting to preach with her congregants present at the small church. "I said I was hoping to preach to them one last time face-to-face."
"It's a start," Pastor Vern Martin says with a laugh. "We will certainly be looking forward, even with the restrictions to be meeting. However, I mean, it would be ideal if we can meet at full capacity as we all miss each other, but this is definitely a step in the right direction."
The pastor at Emmanuel Gospel Church in Lowe Farm, Man., south of Winnipeg says his leadership will be discussing soon whether to meet indoors or outdoors.
For Martin, he says being limited in visitations and caring for people in person has been difficult as a pastor.
"The most difficult thing (as a congregation) has been that we do miss each other. We would love to have fellowship as a congregation once again, and so like I said, this is a step in the right direction and hopefully we'll keep going in that direction."