While many are following the rules, some churches in Manitoba continue to violate health orders

WINNIPEG — The province keeps reminding people to decrease contacts and limit gatherings as the health-care system is being overwhelmed, but that isn’t stopping some institutions within Manitoba from breaking public health orders.

The province has been under code red or critical restrictions since November 20, and with those health orders, religious and cultural gatherings are not allowed to happen.

Westworth United Church is following the orders and has suspended all in-person worship since September.

Reverend Loraine Mackenzie Shepherd said the church has gone above and beyond what has been required during the pandemic.

“Even in the orange code, we closed down. That’s why we closed down for the last Sunday in September. Didn’t have to, but we knew where the numbers were heading,” said Shepherd.

The church is now offering an online service that they record and upload to YouTube and their website.

“We want it to look as closely as possible as what it would normally look like,” Shepherd said.

While Westworth United Church is following the health orders, the same can’t be said for others. On Sunday, around 100 people tried to attend a service at the Church of God Restoration near Steinbach but were turned away by RCMP.

Also on Sunday, Springs Church in Winnipeg saw hundreds of people in cars pull into the parking lot for multiple drive-in church services.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the province’s chief provincial public health officer, said we need to shift the way we do things right now to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A petition using the hashtag ‘church essential’ is circulating across Canada, calling for religious gatherings to be allowed under current health orders.

Shepherd said making sacrifices for the benefit of others is part of being a Christian.

“Personal sacrifices of comforts and privileges are part of the Christian calling as far as our gospel teaches us. Nowhere in the scripture are we told to defend our individual rights of freedom,” said Shepherd. “When individual rights trump communal welfare, I think we’re violating our gospel and we’re violating our Canadian identity.”

Roussin said when hundreds of Manitobans gather for hours at a time it presents a high-level risk of transmission.

CTV News has reached to Springs Church and the Church of God Restoration for comment but has not heard back.

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