Windsor·Video

Places of worship reopening with limited capacity under provincial guidelines

Places of worship are reopening this weekend at 30 per cent capacity — a joyful moment for religious leaders across Windsor-Essex.

Harvest Bible Church will keep three seats empty between each worshipper Sunday

Aaron Rock, lead pastor at Windsor's Harvest Bible Church, describes the seating arrangement for worshippers this Sunday. The plan is to leave three seats empty between each person to adhere to physical distancing guidelines. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

Places of worship are reopening this weekend at 30 per cent capacity — a joyful moment for religious leaders across Windsor-Essex.

Though not every health unit region was permitted to enter the province's Stage 2 of reopening, the Ontario government announced this week that places of worship in all regions are able to welcome congregants again with a 30 per cent capacity limit.

Aaron Rock, lead pastor at Windsor's Harvest Bible Church, said he was excited to hear the premier's announcement. In fact, Rock was one of the authors of a letter sent to Doug Ford back in May, imploring the premier to allow churches to reopen.

"It's been very challenging to be closed for three months," Rock said. "At the beginning of the lockdown, we were able to communicate with people through Zoom or Facebook or phone calls."

But the virtual turnout started to "go a little quiet," Rock said, adding that's a clear indicator that church-goers are struggling with being isolated and disconnected from one another.

"We're looking forward to being back together to help resolve some of that."

When worshippers are welcome back inside Harvest Bible Church, there will be a three-seat distance between each person sitting down.

The city's Muslim community was able to return inside Windsor Mosque for prayer service this past Friday. A man is seen here wearing a mask during the prayer. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

The church is currently accepting registrations online for its first in-person Sunday service since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of all places of worship. People must sign a waiver before their spot is reserved.

"When you come on Sunday, you'll have an opportunity to check your name off and get your temperature checked and come into the auditorium and worship with us," said Rock.

This past Friday, the Windsor Mosque was able to run its Friday prayer service with people inside sitting two metres apart.

"This is the way [that] we connect. This is our social life so it means a lot for us," said Mohamed Al-Gammali, imam of Windsor Mosque. "When the presence of the mosque is not in your life, you feel like you've lost a lot."

Al-Gammali said there were multiple days in the mosque where he would be praying with no more than a couple of employees.

"Sometimes, I was alone. It was hard on me."

Al-Gammali said he cried "tears of joy" during the Friday prayer service. When asked about that moment by CBC News, Al-Gammali said it was because people were finally able to come together after so many months of being prohibited from doing so because of the pandemic.

WATCH: Tap on the player below for a look at how places of worship are preparing to reopen.

Places of worship are reopening this weekend at 30 per cent capacity. For religious leaders in the city like Windsor Mosque Imam Mohamed Al-Gammali and Harvest Bible Church's lead pastor Aaron Rock, it's a joyful moment. 1:47

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