Letters to the Editor – from Carson Cardinal

Please suspend the stay-at-home order for churches

To the Editor:

Dear Mayor Warman,

I am writing this letter to express gratitude, and to make a request. As a resident of Slave Lake, Alberta I have witnessed your resiliency in decision-making, and palpable love for the Lesser Slave River region. Your efforts as a volunteer firefighter during the 2011 wildfires and your current efforts during the Covid-19 crisis have been noteworthy, and I applaud your willingness to make bold daily decisions – decisions that were no doubt difficult to make. Thank you for your leadership during this time.

It is with a spirit of thankfulness that I would make the request for you to suspend the stay-at-home order for churches, allowing us to open up Sunday morning services.

While this pandemic has waged war on the physical health of many people, it has also attacked the thoughts, emotions, and spiritual health of countless others. For the entirety of our history, churches have been the lifeblood of the Canadian spirit, serving to stabilize, equip, and encourage people toward positive action. Furthermore, churches are centers of healthy fellowship and community, serving numerous people in a multitude of ways. In my church (Slave Lake Alliance Church), families are loved, widows are cared for, children are treasured, recovering addicts are encouraged, the underprivileged are provided for – all to the glory of God and for the benefit of our small community. To re-open our churches is to revive the spirit of the people of Slave Lake, allow us to serve them faithfully, and give them hope for good things to come.

As a journeying psychology student I can perceive how limiting the spread of an illness may be thought of as an immediately beneficial concep;, however, research conducted by Bjorklund (2011), Steinberg (2017), and Baron and Branscombe (2019) uncover that there are great risks to keeping human beings socially isolated from one another. Social isolation and exclusion most often lead to greater loneliness and physical ailment which can ultimately cause even greater accounts of hostile attribution bias between members of the community who are doing their best to exercise healthy meaning-centered coping mechanisms.

Perhaps one of my greatest concerns is the fact that it is important to maintain student and occupational engagement within functional educational and workplace roles in order to prevent emotional, cognitive, and behavioral disengagement from society. While it is important to highlight cooperation between residents as a means of attaining progress, it is also important to not overemphasize the formation of dependent attachments with ignorance to the human capacity for individuality. I only have to think so far as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who recorded during the 1920’s how religious leaders and institutions under the GPU-NKVD were arrested, tried and sentenced to 10 years of labour, “not for their actual faith but for openly declaring their convictions and for bringing up their children in the same spirit.”

It was Viktor E. Frankl, after surviving the Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, and Dachau concentration camps who wrote that if a man lost his self-respect, “he lost the feeling of being an individual, a being with a mind, with inner freedom and personal value. He thought of himself then as only a part of an enormous mass of people; his existence descended to the level of animal life.”

“The prisoner who had lost faith in the future-his future-was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.”

Again, Frankl wrote, “I knew only one thing – which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.”

In line with your efforts to mitigate risk in the local community, I believe the re-opening of churches is a low-risk activity. Firstly, the vast majority of churches in the Slave Lake region are relatively small in number, they will see far less foot-traffic than the grocery stores and retail businesses that have remained open these last few months.

Secondly, the draw for interprovincial drivers is miniscule; churches are not tourist hotspots; rather our churches serve our native communities and are intended to serve the young and old’s quest for meaning across their lifespans. Lastly, with our churches being small, tightly-knit communities, we are keenly aware of the condition and needs of each of our members. Unlike more public venues where anonymity is possible, we will be able to mitigate risk through enacting acceptable safety measures in line with provincial guidelines and carry them out effectively through targeted communication to our people. In this way, we truly can monitor and continue to slow the spread of the virus in very practical ways.

As Christian believers, we joyfully submit ourselves to government, yet we do so with the expectant hope that our leaders will recognize the value that the Christian community brings to our neighbours. It is our love for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that compels us to emulate his character, compassion, and service. Romans 12:9-13 tells us, “Let Love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honour; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”

Mayor Warman, please end the stay-at-home order for churches, and we will remain faithful to our calling; to love God supremely and love our neighbours selflessly. In all good faith, and in accordance with 20th century history and the current Alberta Bill of Rights Chapter A-14, I ask you grant this request.

You have my pledge that I will continue to pray for you, as for all of our leaders.

Carson Cardinal
Slave Lake, AB

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