The BC government held another town hall for faith leaders on December 14th with Premier John Horgan, Minister Adrian Dix, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Dr. Robert Daum. We’ve included key notes from this time below:
- Premier John Horgan has brought in Dr. Robert Daum from the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue. He will be facilitating five 90-minute conversations with approximately 12 spiritual communities. There will be 25-30 people invited to a candid discussion on gathering safely over winter, with one such dialogue coming later this week. Of these dialogue groups, one will be specifically comprised of Christians to discuss gathering in the Christmas context, and other groups will be mixed and will involve indigenous elders.
- It was reiterated several times that the government is working to hear from faith leaders, values their input and advice, and that communication and dialogue will continue throughout the pandemic.
- Dr. Bonnie Henry has validated our district response to churches for recording worship services – the number of people recording or livestreaming services should be minimized, a COVID-19 safety plan must be in place, and wearing masks is required other than while singing or preaching. Dr. Henry reminded those present that singing is a higher risk and singers should be physically distanced and singing away from each other. All other videographers/techs must wear masks.
- Orders in place for gathering restrictions will be not changing at this point as community transmission is too high. There were multiple mentions that the coming months will require continued vigilance and restrictions of some sort will be in place while vaccinations are underway.
- While there are unintended consequences due to the ongoing gathering restrictions, including impact on mental health and social isolation, there have been positive unintended consequences as well as suicide rates have dropped dramatically in our province. Dr. Henry has a team in place that is actively working on these issues.
- One faith leader commented that there hasn’t been transmission in their churches and encouraged the government to give support specifically to faith communities that had infractions to the order or transmissions of COVID-19. Dr. Henry responded that the issue is not one of people doing anything wrong, rather that the virus is spreading more quickly in winter and community transmission has made gathering together dangerous. She further noted that it’s “more luck than following guidance” that churches have not seen transmissions and that when the virus is not spreading at such a high level, that small gatherings can happen again.