Small Easter services, gatherings return in 2021 but Manitobans urged to avoid repeat of Thanksgiving

The Parish Church of St. Luke in Osborne Village. (Source: Josh Crabb/CTV News)

Manitobans are preparing for another Easter during a pandemic and officials are urging you to avoid gatherings and to stay home when you’re sick.

Last year, the province was under a lockdown but this year the rules have been loosened.

Still, people are being urged to keep their contacts down.

Even though a small number of people have now been vaccinated, variants of the virus have become a growing threat, meaning only a partial return to routine during the Holy Week on the Christian calendar.

For Vivien Isfeld, it’s a chance to attend services she missed during last year’s lockdown.

“At least this year we’re able to go even if there’s only a few of us,” said Isfeld, who had just attended a small service with a handful of people at The Parish Church of St. Luke in Osborne Village.

At St. Luke’s, the procession on Palm Sunday was captured in a video and posted online to help mark the start of the lead-up to Easter.

Reverend Paul Lampman said virtual services will continue for most churchgoers while numbers for in-person services remain limited. His church stays well below the 25 per cent capacity or 100-person maximum it’s allowed and that space is reserved for those who live alone or can’t connect virtually, like Isfeld.

“I don’t have a computer or a tablet or anything so it’s really wonderful to be able to go back to church,” Isfeld said.

With restrictions limiting household and outdoor gatherings, families are once again navigating how to keep Easter traditions alive while adhering to public health orders.

Tonina Fiorentino said that means celebrating with a heavily reduced guest list for dinners, with just her two kids attending.

“It’s better than last year,” said Fiorentino. “But I would still like to extend it to the rest of my family, which I can’t, of course.”

That’s because Manitobans are still only allowed to have over the two people they’ve designated to visit their home or a designated second household. And there’s a limit of 10 visitors to a household if a private gathering is kept outdoors.

Those are just some of the rules Premier Brian Pallister urged people to follow to avoid a repeat of this past fall when the number of infections spiked.

“We all remember what happened at Thanksgiving,” said Pallister. “So hopefully we’re different people now and we’re smarter and we’re going to be able to resist the temptation to do what friendly Manitobans like to do, get together and socialize with family and friends.”

Still, for some, even the loosened restrictions for Holy Week services this year compared to last are giving a small reprieve as the pandemic drags on.

“That’s very important,” said Father Sam Argenziano, Pastor of Holy Rosary Parish on River Avenue. “We’re a community. People need to be together. Even socially, what are people really hungering for—to be together, right.”

Isfeld said she’ll attend small services throughout the weekend but like others there’ll be no large gatherings for her.

“It’s just my daughter and I we’ll be getting together and having a small meal.”