Church service
Members of York United at a recent service. (Photo courtesy Douglas Mitchell)

Topics: Spirituality | Religion

York United is holding in-person services

Many people in the small congregation don't have internet access and were glad to be back, said the minister


Sheila Berry was glad to be able to celebrate communion outdoors with other members of her church on Sunday. 

“We all brought our own piece of bread, and then we had juice boxes to have communion with,” she said, laughing.

Her church, York United, in the small Haldimand County community of York, Ont., began holding in-person services on June 14 after sitting empty for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

York United has held three Sunday services so far, two in the sanctuary and a third outdoors. Around 20 people filled the pews for the first two indoor services, along with the minister, Rev. Douglas Mitchell, and a musician who played hymns on the piano. There was no singing.

“It’s an older congregation, and a lot of them don’t have the internet at all. They’re in their 80s and they’re not interested in getting it, so they were quite happy to be back,” said Mitchell.

As part of Stage 2 of its plan to reopen the province, Ontario began allowing places of worship to hold in-person services as of June 12, provided they limit attendance to 30 percent capacity and continue to practice physical distancing. 

Mitchell said a member of the congregation has measured two metres between the pews to ensure they’re far enough apart, and families sit two metres away from one another. 

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Congregants were offered masks, but Mitchell said most people brought their own. 

“When it’s time to leave, we let them out one pew at a time, so there isn’t a rush of people going out the door all at the same time,” he said.

He had not been recording or live-streaming services, partly because many members don’t have internet access, and also because he’s not quite comfortable enough with the technology. 

“I’m not used to preaching to a cellphone camera, so we didn’t do that,” he said. “If we get locked down again, that might be an option I might look at.”

Berry and her husband don’t have a computer, so they have been watching services that are streamed from St. Andrew’s United in Hamilton on their TV. Her fellow church members were also never far from her mind during the closure. 

“Of course, we’re just like a family anyways because we’re so small,” she said. “We all phone and make sure everybody’s OK.”

But she’s a longtime member who is happy to get back to church and that services will continue next month.   

“It felt good, because I’ve been going to that church since I came to Ontario 72 years ago.”

Emma Prestwich is Broadview’s digital editor.

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