Vice-president of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque Jamal Osman, front, and Imam Sherif El Sayed pose in Edmonton on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press).

Vice-president of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque Jamal Osman, front, and Imam Sherif El Sayed pose in Edmonton on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press).

‘Caring for others:’ Mosque, synagogue advise Alberta church to follow COVID-19 rules

While they sympathize with GraceLife Church’s desire to bring worshippers together, they are asking its pastor and congregants to trust public-health rules

Leaders with a mosque and a synagogue in Edmonton have a message for an area Christian church that has been routinely holding services that violate COVID-19 restrictions.

While they sympathize with GraceLife Church’s desire to bring worshippers together, they are asking its pastor and congregants to trust Alberta’s public-health rules.

“I would encourage (GraceLife) to just consider, contemplate and reflect upon what God would want them to do in terms of caring for others, especially vulnerable Albertans,” says Jamal Osman, vice-president of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque.

The province and Alberta Health Services are not stopping those at GraceLife from practising their faith, he says.

“They’re just saying, ‘make sure there is social distancing”’.

Before the pandemic, up to 300 Muslims squeezed into the mosque for a service every Friday, which is a sacred day of worship in Islam, Osman says.

Muslims typically pray standing shoulder-to-shoulder, he adds. Letting go of years of communal practice was difficult when COVID-19 hit, but the community understood.

“It’s not our place to agree or disagree with another faith group and what they choose to do. I would just encourage (GraceLife) to consider the health and safety of everybody else.”

Zolly Claman, a rabbi at Edmonton’s Beth Israel Synagogue, lost his father-in-law to the virus early in the pandemic.

He says gathering is of the utmost importance in Judaism, and it’s a struggle to keep up with religious practice while working with public-health guidelines.

“But COVID-19 regulations are designed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and they definitely need to be followed.”

GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove, just west of Edmonton, along with its pastor, James Coates, are to appear in court in May. They are charged with violating measures under the Public Health Act related to capacity limits, physical distancing and masking.

Coates was recently released from jail after 35 days, after he breached a bail condition to stop holding services that did not follow regulations. He pleaded guilty and was fined $1,500.

But the church hasn’t stopped holding services in numbers that health officials have said are over the province’s gathering limit.

On March 28, a spokesperson for Alberta Health Services said the church denied entry to health inspectors, who again noted breaches of COVID-19 rules.

GraceLife’s website says it is to hold another service tomorrow on Easter Sunday.

RCMP, health and justice officials said public-health enforcement is under the discretion of local officers and health inspectors.

AHS said it is considering further enforcement options and hoped to schedule a meeting with GraceLife and its pastor before Easter. However, a church spokeswoman said no meeting was set.

The press secretary for Health Minister Tyler Shandro said it’s a complex situation.

“Generally we defer questions on specific enforcement actions to AHS as we don’t dictate practice in any individual instance,” Steve Buick said in an email.

AHS said there have been no reports of COVID-19 outbreaks at the church and individual cases cannot be disclosed. However, in a video of a July service posted on the church’s YouTube page, a speaker says “we have done in-house contact tracing for those of you who tested positive.”

Claman and Osman say no members of their faith communities have contracted COVID-19 at their synagogue or mosque, because regulations are strictly enforced.

As active members in their communities, Osman and Claman confidently say they haven’t heard of any outbreaks at mosques or synagogues across the province.

“You’re never going to benefit from breaking regulations,” says Claman.

“They’re there to help.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Town of Ponoka logo
Town council approves 2021 capital and operating budgets

Ponoka town council approved the 2021 capital and operating budgets at its… Continue reading

(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe man to apply to withdraw manslaughter guilty plea

Tyler John Campbell wants to change plea after judge rejected seven-year sentence

Supporters gather during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop cafe in Mirror Alta, on Saturday May 8, 2021. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Police hand out tickets to dozens leaving anti-lockdown protest in Alberta

Hundreds gathered outside the Whistle Stop Café in the hamlet of Mirror, Alta.

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Alberta leads the Prairie provinces in being the first to take COVID-19 vaccine bookings for pre-teens. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leads Prairie provinces in accepting COVID vaccine bookings for pre-teens

The province begins accepting appointments for kids as young as 12 starting today

File photo
Arrest made for armed robbery in Millet, Wetaskiwin RCMP continue to investigate

Wetaskiwin RCMP are investigating an armed robbery took place May 4, 2021 in Millet, Alta.

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

Most Read