LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- Since the initial re-opening following the COVID-19 lockdown in the spring, businesses and organizations have had to get innovative to safely provide service for their guests.

Central Church of Christ on Lethbridge’s northside has gone over and above to meet the needs of the moment since opening back up in October, after taking time to decide what would be the safest way to return in-person service.

They focused on implementing safety members to keep members safe. They have a sanitization station upon entry, non-cohorts are socially distanced, pews have been spaced out and five-foot by 30-inch sheets of plexiglass have been hung from the ceiling between each pew.

“We have a high percentage of seniors in our group,” board chairman Jesse Kurtz said.

“Which are the vulnerable people identified, people over 60 are dying more than any other age group from the virus, so because of our high percentage of people over 60 we felt we needed to do everything we could to keep them safe.”

That’s where the idea for the plexiglass came from. The church began looking into the costs and logistics of the installation, and after consultations with Alberta Health Services decided to move forward. The panels provide the necessary separation between each pew to allow the church to seat at near-normal capacity.

Lethbridge Central Church of Christ

An anonymous donor stepped up to help cover the $5,000 cost for the plexiglass, and the church also bought a disinfecting gun that uses a fogging system which takes about 10 to 15 minutes to clean the church.

Before the installation, with physical distancing they could sit about 35 people safely, but now they have the capacity to get many more in the doors without jeopardizing anyone's safety.

“The faith community is one of those where it’s really built around relationships," pastor Harold Cooper said. "It’s not a spectator sport - it’s about engagement.”

“Being able to bring our people back in the building to gather in a safe way is so important, but even in saying that there are all kinds of health reasons that have left some people unable to come. So we still have to figure that out, but at least for now we’ve been able to have our people meet.”

This week the church will install a few more additional panels of plexiglass, giving them more than 40 panels in total, which will cover each pew and the front area of the church.

With COVID cases on the rise in Alberta, and with new measures recently imposed by the provincial government, they might be waiting a while longer to see more people come through the doors.

However, by taking proactive measures ahead of time, they’re hoping that it will allow them to keep their doors open for the long term.

“We needed to be set up here for the long haul and by putting up plexiglass we’re now ready to keep going. We can keep having services, we don’t see closing the doors again unless the government mandates it with everybody and they’ll be no exceptions, even though I believe that we’ve gone above and beyond,” Kurtz said.