Reverend Brenda Nestegaard Paul prepares to record a worship session at Trinity Anglican/ Lutheran Church in Port Alberni. Nestegaard Paul has been creative in keeping her congregation connected through COVID-19. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Island faith leaders voice opposition to churches defying COVID-19 restrictions

‘The church is not just a building,’ says Vancouver Island pastor

A group of multi-denominational pastors from Vancouver Island and across British Columbia are raising their voices in support of B.C.’s COVID-19 measures.

“We wanted to make clear that faith communities that are flouting the protocols laid out by the health authority by gathering in person do not speak for all of us,” said Rev. Brenda Nestegaard Paul, pastor at Port Alberni’s Trinity Anglican/Lutheran Church.

“In fact, we believe that following the rules that keep us apart physically at this time is part of ‘loving our neighbour as ourselves.’ We need to do all we can to keep each other safe.”

Nestegaard Paul is one of the signatories of a letter, co-written by Rev. Aneeta Saroop, pastor for Spirit of Life Lutheran Church in Vancouver and Rev. Kristen Steele, pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Langley, contradicts faith leaders in Chilliwack and Langley that have defied provincial orders banning gatherings. Thirty-six other Lutheran pastors also signed the letter.

The letter reads, in part: “We are faith leaders from across British Columbia and from multiple denominations within the province. We wanted to publicly reach out to show our deep respect and appreciation” to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, health minister Adrian Dix and their respective staffs.

“We fully support the work you have done throughout 2020 and appreciate your calm, considerate guidance and wisdom as you work to keep us all safe.

“We have been deeply disappointed in the multiple times that the voices of a particular group of faith leaders has been spotlighted and amplified publicly criticizing your work and your mandates. As you are already aware, these voices do not speak for all of us. We want to publicly reiterate our gratitude and support for your work.”

READ: Vancouver Island reverend keeps up congregation’s spirits during COVID-19 restrictions

Nestegaard Paul is one of numerous faith leaders who got creative when COVID-19 forced closure of her church last March, leaning on technology to keep her congregation connected. Sunday worship services have gone online, study gatherings and meetings moved to Zoom, she sent out daily prayers via e-mail and held a stay-in-your-car hymn sing-along at the Alberni District fairgrounds in the summer.

“There have been many meaningful moments during COVID even though we are not able to gather as we normally would,” she said.

Reverend Lyndon Sayers from the Lutheran Church of the Cross in Victoria, who co-pastors with Rev. Lyle McKenzie, has also moved much of his church’s programming online. Both of them are signatories on the letter to Henry and Dix.

“We have a COVID-19 leadership team that has been writing up and adapting (church) protocols as restrictions change,” Sayers said. “We’ve been thankful for the online tools so we are able to stream live our weekend worship on our Facebook page, YouTube and the church website.”

Sayers and McKenzie signed the letter because like Nestegaard, they felt it was important to give another voice amid faith leaders that are publicly defying COVID-19 protocols. Sayers said he doesn’t see faith and science as mutually exclusive, and while everyone is looking forward to the time they can meet again in person, they have found ways to keep connected with their congregation. In fact, some of their online offerings have given them a broader audience, connecting them to people from Washington State and southern Ontario.

Sayers said he intends to keep live-streaming weekend worship services even when the church can go back to gathering together again.

READ MORE: Three Chilliwack churches fined $18,400 for violating B.C.’s COVID ban on gatherings

“The church is not just a building,” Nestegaard Paul added. “The church is the people. We are able to be the church even as we are scattered all over the place.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Alberni ValleyAlberni-Clayoquot Regional DistrictCoronavirusPORT ALBERNIReligion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Nanaimo’s council chambers, the Shaw Auditorium at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: City council should save Nanaimo before trying to save planet

City councillors aren’t at the G7 table, they represent a small B.C. city, says letter writer

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
RDN Transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Peter Crema and Harmony Gray (from left), past participants of the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Code Switching teen art group, at work in ArtLab in 2019. The NAG will be expanding the space thanks to a $75,000 arts infrastructure program grant. (Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Art Gallery, Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre receive new arts infrastructure funding

Province announces recipients of funding through B.C. Arts Council program

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help Nanaimo’s new baseball team look picture-perfect

NightOwls announce partnership with Angela Waldick of Nightengales Photography

Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a hatchback and a taxi minivan at the intersection of Fitzwilliam, Pine and Third streets on Friday afternoon. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver hurt as taxi and hatchback crash in Nanaimo

Collision happened Friday at intersection of Fitzwilliam, Pine and Third streets

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Nanaimo City Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo councillors like new sustainable buying policy

Finance and audit committee recommends council approve new procurement policy

Most Read