Dr. Bonnie Henry Dec 2, 2020
BC Provincial Health Officer
STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, BC; V8W 9P4
Dear Honourable Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry,
I am the priest in charge of St. Aidan’s Orthodox Church in Cranbrook B.C. in the East Kootenay. First I would like to thank you for the challenging and tireless work you have been doing and continue to do for the people of BC during the COVID 19 pandemic. We appreciate you are doing your best in a challenging situation! As a Church, we pray daily for our government leaders and health authorities. We feel, however, that this latest closure of places of worship is unfair, particularly in regions of BC such as the East Kootenays with very low transmission rates of COVID 19 in comparison with the more troubled areas of the province.
At St. Aidan Orthodox Church, we have from the start implemented proper hand sanitizing and masks be required upon entry. We checked with Work Safe BC and have followed the spacing formula given to us so that there are only 8 spots in the entire church where individuals or family groups can stand. This resulted in only allowing a maximum of 20 people in our church building, including serving priests, deacons and altar servers, making us likely the safest public spot in Cranbrook to gather, far safer and at less risk than any of the malls, sport events, larger stores, grocery stores, government liquor stores etc. St. Aidan’s also provides breakfast for the vulnerable population twice a week outside of our church in a large well vented tent following COVID safety protocol.
Many businesses are suffering. It is this financial suffering, Covid fatigue and depression that I see amongst my congregation and in the community that concerns me. Virtual services do not meet the spiritual and mental needs of the participants. Being together physically, even at a safe distance, and worshipping together as a community is a basic human spiritual need. As famously noted, ‘the whole is greater, than the sum of the parts.’ Churches and places of worship are ‘spiritual hospitals’ where people come to be healed spiritually and mentally. Worship services are an integral means of healing people’s spiritual and mental wounds. Please consider them an essential service, most especially in this time of fear and social isolation.
I am writing this as a small voice from the East Kootenay, asking you to reconsider the COVID 19 response plan for churches and other places of worship. Rather than assessing all geographic areas as hot zones, please consider regional and community differences. BC is a very geographically and regionally diverse province. We are hoping for an approach that takes in these differences after the December 7th deadline. As we enter into the great Christian celebration of the Nativity of Christ and other faith’s religious celebrations, may God grant you wisdom. Consider the prayerful support the faith communities of BC have given to you and please support them at this critical time of the year.
As citizens of BC, we thank you again for all your hard work and good intentions on our behalf.
Respectfully and with great concern;
Fr Andrew Applegate
Fr. Andrew Applegate
Rector: St. Aidan Orthodox Church
201 7th Ave. S.