From left to right, Esme, Pastor Stephen, Rico and Tertia Vangroonen (Robert Wisla - Creston Valley Advance)

St Stephens Church reopens in a COVID-19 world

New safety measures adopted including new ways of giving communion

Saint Stephens Presbyterian Church has reopened for regular services.

The church service held in a new way, following the COVID-19 regulations as laid out by the Ministry of Health. The chapel where worship usually takes place was left empty as the worshipers gathered in the hall next door. Chairs were set up six feet apart and spaced out for the 35 congregants.

Volunteers put the communion out on paper plates in front of each chair. Singing in the room was discouraged, so the room quietly hummed along to the instrumental hymns, with only a couple of songs sung by the band members.

According to Pastor Stephen Vangroonen, most of the church members showed up. “A few people told me they felt uncomfortable with getting together in such a large group, so didn’t come, but most of the congregation made it.”

Vangroonen came to Creston from the city of Mbombela, South Africa. He will be ordained within the next few weeks.

It was a significant change for the pastor and his family to move to Creston.

“It’s a fair bit cooler here than in South Africa, which took some getting used to, but the people have been amicable, and the climate is milder here than in many other parts of Canada, which I am thankful for,” Vangroonen said.

Safety and the challenge of working in a ‘post-Christian world’ were what attracted Vangroonen away from South Africa.

“There were a few reasons why I wanted to come to Canada, and it seemed like a challenge to do ministry in a post-Christian world. In Europe, Canada and, to a smaller extent, the United States, Christianity is in the margins and declining. In South Africa, over 85% of the country is Christian.”

“Of course, the crime rate and economic situation in South Africa also played a role. I see a better future for my children here in Canada, but we do miss our friends back in South Africa. Going from a church with 1,500 people and three Pastors to a church of 60 and just me has been a big change.”

Services at Saint Stephen’s are held every Sunday at 10:30 a.m.; the church is located on the corner of Highway 3 and Vancouver Street.

READ MORE: Hungarian vocalist performs at Creston’s St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church

READ MORE: Creston’s St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church choir hosting the first concert

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