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How Recent Restrictions Have Affected Churches in Québec

More By Dwight Bernier

Québec is going through a difficult time, especially in the Montréal and Québec city regions. The number of Covid-19 cases has been rapidly growing. This rise has led to difficult decisions being made by the government and the church (and really by everyone).

Last week, the government made the decision to allow bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, and schools to remain open. They placed churches in code orange, which is the second most severe category. This restriction means that churches may only have 25 people attend a service. This restriction appears discriminatory, albeit potentially in ignorance. It allows entertainment sectors to remain open but severely limits religious services.

So what did the church do? She started praying.

She prayed for wisdom, favour, understanding, allowances, and to be content with the sovereign hand dealt by the Lord.

Along with those prayers for wisdom, many Christians, pastors, and denominational leaders petitioned their local MPs in order to express their disagreement and misunderstanding about why Québec would give favour to places such as cinemas rather than places of gathered worship. Prayers and action came together.

Soon after, it seemed that the government of Québec was beginning to understand the needs of the church as evidenced by a discussion amongst different government officials. However, they did not take any action to change the situation.

Where do things stand now in Québec?

In a few different regions, including the largest area of Montréal, there is now a code red status. Code red status means maximum action without entering into a lockdown, which had happened during the first local wave of the pandemic.

Cinemas, theatres, restaurants, and bars are all closed. However, the government did make a change. They are now recognizing the church as being in a separate category, which allows for 25 people to assemble together in worship.

Now, this might still seem very small. For many it is still nearly impossible to gather with all those who desire to do so. But the church still can gather legally. This is a huge answer to prayer as it was almost certain that the gathering would be on the chopping block along with other types of gatherings.

Even though the church can gather, it is going to need to be done with creativity and endurance.

Some churches are small enough that the only limitations experienced have to do with social distancing and wearing a mask.

Some churches in Québec are having a plethora of in-person worship gatherings throughout a weekend.

Others are live-streaming, zooming, recording, or breaking the church into smaller groups in order to conform to the laws.

We are exhausted

Regardless of the choice that a church makes, the leaders are tired. Constantly changing measures have exhausted churches. I speak as a pastor who has experienced significant change.

Our church started the pandemic with live-streaming but switched to recorded sermons for months after a few early failed attempts at live-streaming. After many months, we were able to be back in our cinema. We were limited to only 125 persons per gathering, but we were grateful.

Just as we were about to add a second service, the regulations said that we could only have 25 persons. Twenty-five in a cinema that seats nearly 400! Last week, we pivoted (the word of 2020) to have 25 persons in the theatre and run a live-stream to the majority of the church, which was a success this time around.

As we were about to add a second service this coming Sunday, despite churches being able to gather, our gathering was cancelled because the cinema was ordered to close. We have a solution for this weekend that we think will work, but we still have to wait to find out.

Our situation is the norm here for so many. We make plans and those get busted.

But here is what I am learning, and here is how you can pray for churches in Québec:

We serve an inexhaustible God who is able to give creativity, sanity, and clarity to His people in moments of destabilization.

Our primary call is not to gather but to make disciples. Gathering is part of that call but not the call in its entirety.

We are learning to rely less on our old methods and spending more time asking the Holy Spirit what the Father wants us to do in order to glorify the Son.

We are involving more people in our plans, and our mini-gatherings are becoming more participatory.

People are still meeting Jesus. If the gates of hell cannot stand against the kingdom expanding, then neither can isolation, pandemic, or code red.

Despite certain metrics changing, I am seeing churches be more generous during this time.

The enemy wants to turn Christians against one another and society. We are in a real war—but not against flesh and blood. We need to be fighting to believe the gospel and for unity around Jesus and His kingdom.

People are still meeting Jesus. If the gates of hell cannot stand against the kingdom expanding, then neither can isolation, pandemic, or code red.

Pray for us

Thank you for praying for Québec. Please take time to pray regularly that the Lord would stir revival in His people and throughout the province.

Please pray that this province would move from being the least-reached place in the western hemisphere to the most-reached place in the world.

Please pray that our God would cause Québec to be a significant exporter of the gospel throughout the world.

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