Vice-president of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque Jamal Osman, front, and Imam Sherif El Sayed pose in Edmonton on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press).

Vice-president of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque Jamal Osman, front, and Imam Sherif El Sayed pose in Edmonton on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press).

‘Caring for others:’ Mosque, synagogue advise Alberta church to follow COVID-19 rules

While they sympathize with GraceLife Church’s desire to bring worshippers together, they are asking its pastor and congregants to trust public-health rules

Leaders with a mosque and a synagogue in Edmonton have a message for an area Christian church that has been routinely holding services that violate COVID-19 restrictions.

While they sympathize with GraceLife Church’s desire to bring worshippers together, they are asking its pastor and congregants to trust Alberta’s public-health rules.

“I would encourage (GraceLife) to just consider, contemplate and reflect upon what God would want them to do in terms of caring for others, especially vulnerable Albertans,” says Jamal Osman, vice-president of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque.

The province and Alberta Health Services are not stopping those at GraceLife from practising their faith, he says.

“They’re just saying, ‘make sure there is social distancing”’.

Before the pandemic, up to 300 Muslims squeezed into the mosque for a service every Friday, which is a sacred day of worship in Islam, Osman says.

Muslims typically pray standing shoulder-to-shoulder, he adds. Letting go of years of communal practice was difficult when COVID-19 hit, but the community understood.

“It’s not our place to agree or disagree with another faith group and what they choose to do. I would just encourage (GraceLife) to consider the health and safety of everybody else.”

Zolly Claman, a rabbi at Edmonton’s Beth Israel Synagogue, lost his father-in-law to the virus early in the pandemic.

He says gathering is of the utmost importance in Judaism, and it’s a struggle to keep up with religious practice while working with public-health guidelines.

“But COVID-19 regulations are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and they definitely need to be followed.”

GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove, just west of Edmonton, along with its pastor, James Coates, are to appear in court in May. They are charged with violating measures under the Public Health Act related to capacity limits, physical distancing and masking.

Coates was recently released from jail after 35 days, after he breached a bail condition to stop holding services that did not follow regulations. He pleaded guilty and was fined $1,500.

But the church hasn’t stopped holding services in numbers that health officials have said are over the province’s gathering limit.

On March 28, a spokesperson for Alberta Health Services said the church denied entry to health inspectors, who again noted breaches of COVID-19 rules.

GraceLife’s website says it is to hold another service tomorrow on Easter Sunday.

RCMP, health and justice officials said public-health enforcement is under the discretion of local officers and health inspectors.

AHS said it is considering further enforcement options and hoped to schedule a meeting with GraceLife and its pastor before Easter. However, a church spokeswoman said no meeting was set.

The press secretary for Health Minister Tyler Shandro said it’s a complex situation.

“Generally we defer questions on specific enforcement actions to AHS as we don’t dictate practice in any individual instance,” Steve Buick said in an email.

AHS said there have been no reports of COVID-19 outbreaks at the church and individual cases cannot be disclosed. However, in a video of a July service posted on the church’s YouTube page, a speaker says “we have done in-house contact tracing for those of you who tested positive.”

Claman and Osman say no members of their faith communities have contracted COVID-19 at their synagogue or mosque, because regulations are strictly enforced.

As active members in their communities, Osman and Claman confidently say they haven’t heard of any outbreaks at mosques or synagogues across the province.

“You’re never going to benefit from breaking regulations,” says Claman.

“They’re there to help.”

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins says she’s leaving at the end of the school year. Photo: Tyler Harper
School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins resigns

Perkins is leaving to take over another district

Selkirk College has received provincial funding to assist students. File photo
Selkirk College receives funding to assist students

Provincial funding is available to West Kootenay students

A mushroom grower plans to plan new mushrooms in fallen trees in the Kaslo Community Forest. File photo
Kaslo mushroom farmer given green light for unique project

Robin Mercy will plant mushrooms in the Kaslo Community Forest

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

South Surrey farmland, March 2020. The province’s crackdown on secondary residences sparked protests that have the NDP government engaged in a lengthy rewrite of its legislation. (Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News)
B.C. NDP now wants to keep even ‘non-farmers’ on the land

‘Grandfathering’ of second residences extended again

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Vancouver Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive during a COVID-19 outbreak that involves a variant of the virus. It is now the biggest reported outbreak in the NHL this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks’ return to practice pushed back as player added to COVID protocol list

COVID outbreak has led to eight games being cancelled

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Most Read