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It is very easy to criticize – especially today online. You can make an anonymous twitter, Facebook or Instagram identity and slam away especially at government officials who make decisions that affect our lives. I’m all for accountability and responsible behavior from governments. Politicians have made the “occasional” mistake. However, some do great work and strive for integrity in it.

Last night Pastor Serge and I were on a call into a town hall meeting with Premier Kenney and the Chief Medical Officer for Alberta, Deena Hinshaw. It was held specifically for dialogue with houses of worship and religious organizations. The premier started by thanking all religious communities for their work in providing hope and help for their communities. Dr. Hinshaw also acknowledged the very important contribution that faith communities are making towards helping the population deal with this pandemic.

They both went on to explain their perspective on some of the restrictions on religious communities. They spoke about the ban on congregational singing. They acknowledged the hardship this caused for communities that come together to sing. Then they further explained their rationale – choir practices where people sang near to one another led to significant outbreaks in that community. The doctor explained that this ban was an attempt to help churches keep their congregants safe.

I didn’t sense an attitude that “we want to control you” or “we want to tell you how you can practice your faith.” In fact, Premier Kenney pointed out that Alberta was the only jurisdiction in Canada so far that allowed houses of worship to reopen and gather up to 50 people. This came from their perspective that worship gathering played an important part in keeping the province going during this time.

Another point of concern raised with Dr. Hinshaw was the requirement for churches to make a list of everyone that attends a service. That could be interpreted as government monitoring. But she clarified that the lists stay with the church and would remain with them. The lists could be discarded after 2 or 3 weeks. Their purpose is to enable a church to quickly contact people if it is someone who attended tested positive for COVID 19. She also clarified that she is not mandating that people 60 years and older stay home. She said anyone who was feeling well could attend as long as they are aware of the risks.

Someone asked if congregations could sing if everyone wore a mask. The doctor said they had not yet considered that and would look at this as a possibility. She said she would seek any studies done to determine if such a practice effectively nullifies the dangers posed by singing near others. They also communicated that they are looking at June 19 as a possible date to go into Phase 2 of the relaunch.

Now we may still have many questions and concerns. However, hearing their perspective helped broaden mine. There are times when we need to express appreciation for good work done by public servants. So thank you Premier Kenney and Dr. Hinshaw for the work you’re doing. And we need to pray for them. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 - “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.” “May God guide and direct our premier and chief medical officer to make wise decisions during this incredibly unusual time.”

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