Premier Brian Pallister says he is praying that churches will find ways to love one another outside of a church building.
The vast majority of Manitoban churches are following the current public health orders and conducting worship online, but some disagree with the orders and continue to host gatherings. Dr. Brent Roussin says there have been instances of places of worship not following the orders. This included a highly-publicized Hanover church who attended a rally against public health orders and held a public gathering. A pastor was ticketed for both instances.
"We are doing our absolute best with a rotten situation. So have some faith that we can do this together," Premier Brian Pallister says.
Pallister is asking churches to have faith in their public health officials.
"Do not distrust people just because they are given the responsibility of being the premier or the public health officer," the premier says. "And do not fail to love them."
The Premier says he has respect for people of faith and is advising them that worship gatherings do not take precedence over the health orders.
He says congregations need to be healthy and will be healthier if they do not meet. for a short while. He says congregations can show support in many ways
"You have so many other ways to assist your congregation, so many other ways you can be in contact with each other, not be face to face.
"You have the ability to reach out with the good work that your church does. I encourage you to do that, I pray that you do that."
In Steinbach and surrounding communities, an area with a 40 per cent COVID-19 test positivity rate, 23 churches signed an open letter supporting the provincial leaders.
"They are not anti-faith; they are pro-life," the letter states about the restrictions.
Until December 11, places of worship are not allowed to have gatherings under the Public Health Orders. The province is anticipating stretching some of the public health order restrictions into the new year. It is unlikely that Christmas gatherings will occur outside of households.
“Ultimately, the best holiday gift that we could give each other is life itself,” Pallister says, noting that digital gatherings are encouraged.
Public gatherings bring the risk of spreading the virus, adding to the workload of already-stretched healthcare workers.
Dr. Brent Roussin says that the best way to show support for healthcare workers right now is to stay home. He says church gatherings are too much of a risk.