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

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

The intersection at Moilliet Street and Despard Avenue where a 12-year-old boy was struck by an oncoming vehicle early November while crossing at a marked crosswalk. (Mandy Moraes photo)
City staff members, school district officials to discuss high-traffic Parksville intersection

Young boy suffered broken leg after being hit in Despard/Moilliet crossing

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Another staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at Nanaimo care home

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence employee is isolating, says Island Health

Actions of Vancouver Island RCMP emergency response team members prevented a potential head-on collision accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on Jan. 19, says Nanaimo RCMP. (News Bulletin file)
Eight cars evade vehicle driving on wrong side of highway, says Nanaimo RCMP

Incident occurred near Trans-Canada Highway-Morden Road intersection earlier this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

Most Read