The locations of worship in Edmonton will step by step reopen in accordance with new tips

Canada’s oldest mosque finds new ways to keep the Faith as Alberta gradually eases some pandemic-related public health orders

Al-Rashid Mosque’s approach to prayer in the coronavirus era could provide a roadmap for other faith organizations still considering how and when to safely resume personal congregations.

The mosque is accepting reservations for up to 50 different people through an online portal to attend each of the five daily prayers, in accordance with the revised public health ordinances announced this week by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. The reservations for the evening Tarawih prayer until the end of Ramadan were booked within a few hours.

Taraweh is an additional prayer that Muslims offer only during Ramadan. It is performed right after Isha, the last prayer of the day.

“Those windows of time passed very, very quickly,” said Noor Al-Henedy, Al Rashid’s communications director. “In difficult times, many people return to their faith to stay strong. Usually, this is what you can do most in places of worship.”

The mosque introduced new provincial health guidelines for religious organizations this week, Al Henedy says. The temperature is measured at the door with non-contact thermometers. Hand disinfection is mandatory. Inside, spaces are provided on the floor to keep the 50 worshipers at least two meters apart in a prayer hall, which normally seats more than 700 people during Ramadan.

The relaxed restrictions coincide with the last 10 days of Ramadan, which is considered to be one of the most important in a month marked by fasting, reflection and charitable offerings.

“The safety of everyone in the congregation is the most important issue,” said Al-Henedy.

For those who cannot attend, the mosque actively publishes evening prayers and daily discussions on its social media channels.

But while some faith organizations move forward with personal service, others continue to iron out their plans.

“Sunday just doesn’t feel the same”

The Muslim mosque Ahmadiyya will remain closed at least until the end of Ramadan, says Humayun Ahmed, president of the Edmonton West branch. In the meantime, the organization has weekly live broadcasts on social media for anyone interested in learning more about Ramadan.

“Although some restrictions are now being relaxed, we still follow the same instructions to offer church prayers with our family at home,” said Ahmed.

The Catholic Archdiocese has also not yet announced when it plans to resume the personal parishes. But if it does, the services are likely to look noticeably different. Communion and chanting, which are part of a Catholic worship service, both violate current health guidelines.

“Sunday just doesn’t feel the same. It’s just not the same,” said Lorraine Turchansky, communications director for the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

The pandemic has turned not only everyday spiritual life upside down, but also the Church’s paperback. Without donations from the Sunday prayer basket, 22 people were temporarily released from the offices, from pastors to communication workers, according to Turchansky.

Archbishop Richard Smith has been broadcasting Sunday mass live from St. Joseph’s Basilica for weeks. But with dozens of parishes to oversee, Turchansky says the bishops of Alberta are not rushing to push for a unified approach to the resumption of public liturgy.

“We hope that when people take care of their physical home, they don’t forget their spiritual home,” she said.

Faith leaders from across the province are expected to attend a telephone town hall with the prime minister and chief medical officer on Thursday.

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