I heard recently that the Winkler hospital was overwhelmed. Does anyone doubt that might have something to do with the number of vaccine hesitant people live in that region?
Yesterday I tried to describe what happened when a hospital is overwhelmed. It affects not just people with Covid-19, but many others who can’t get the treatment they deserve. Sometimes that can risk their lives. It is serious stuff.
We have also heard how Manitoba is considering sending Intensive Care Unit patients to the United States. Many have already gone to Ontario. This is serious stuff.
Now think about what some of the churches are doing. First there, are churches like Church of God Restoration near Steinbach, and others that continue to disobey health orders, refusing to take Covid-19 seriously. They have continued to have indoor services for at least 3 Sundays in a row, contrary to health orders because they demand the freedom to assemble to worship. They can worship from anywhere they choose of course. Frankly, I think they are being selfish.
Then there are the people of Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Winkler, also part of the Bible belt, in a region that has the lowest rates of vaccination take up in Manitoba. Yet this church, according to Brenda Suderman of the Winnipeg Free Press, unlike the Church of God Restoration, “has consistently walked the straight and narrow path.” This church appreciates religious freedom too, but has instead “committed to keeping their southern Manitoba community of 13,000 as safe as possible.”
The pastor of family ministries of this church, Corey Hildebrandt, has said, “We’d like to follow the spirit of the law, not simply the letter of the law, so we’re not trying to find loopholes and backdoor ways of gathering…We’re trying to keep us safe versus restrictions telling us what to do.”
In the early days of the pandemic the Winkler church consulted some of the congregation’s 25 or so medical professionals, including 5 doctors , asking their opinion as scientists on how to deal with Covid-19 and got advice on what was the safest way to proceed. As a result, they quickly shifted to online worship as early as March 20, 2020 when Manitobans were just starting to see early effects of the pandemic. Since then, they only met in person a few times when that was permitted by provincial health restrictions being eased. As Suderman reported,
“After a second consultation with medical professionals, Hildebrant said the congregation decided to continue live streaming instead of reopening when religious institutions were allowed to have smaller gatherings earlier this year, fearing case numbers would rise again with the projected third wave.
“We took a fair bit of heat for that,” said Hildebrant, recalling talk on the streets his congregation was afraid.
“We were not afraid actually; We were trying to be good neighbours.”
This church, unlike the Church of God Restoration, realized that safety precautions, such as keeping a safe distance, wearing masks, and obeying health orders were not just about keeping themselves safe; it was about keeping their neighbours safe too. They have tried to help Manitoba’s hospitals from being overwhelmed. The Church of God restoration instead spends its time challenging laws designed to protect the public while Manitoba has had the highest rates of Covid-19 in all of North America.
Who is the good neighbour? Which church is behaving more Christ-like?