One local church won’t be returning to in-person services that are now allowed as long as specific COVID protocol measures are followed.
Pastor Mike McIntyre of the Houston Pentecostal Church said he, in consultation with the church leadership group, could not abide by specific provisions of revised health orders issued the first week of December.
They permit in-person faith gatherings as long as people aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated, wear masks and that the number of people, including choirs, in attendance is limited to 50 per cent of capacity.
In speaking to health officials over a conference call, including provincial health minister Adrian Dix, McIntyre said following the specific mandate that people be fully vaccinated left him with three options:
— leaving the ministry
— disobeying the health order
— having to stand at the door requiring people to show him they are fully vaccinated, a circumstance that he said would “bring shame” to them as they would feel singled out.
“And there was no way I could do that,” said McIntyre of the vaccination requirement provision and the effect it would have on some of his parishioners.
“Our congregation is so small. It is like a family. And families just don’t do that,” he added.
“There are people who have genuinely deeply held convictions.”
“I have to be here for all of them.”
McIntyre said he believes churches have been treated punatively compared to public health orders affecting other places where people gather.
The latest public health orders did ease up on church gatherings as previously, no in-person church services were permitted.
But those previous health orders did allow restaurants and bars to be open with no capacity limits. Proof of vaccination and mask wearing when not seated was also required.
With the decision not to offer in-person services, McIntyre said he will continue to provide sermons online through the church’s Facebook page. Those visiting the page will then be directed to a YouTube link.
McInytre was quick to adopt new technology and adapt to the digital world following the onset of the pandemic nearly two years ago.
Another local church, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, had yet to decide as of the Houston Today’s deadline if it what they had planned.