Between fires and a COVID-19 outbreak, residents of Kelowna, B.C., including members of First Mennonite Church, have been doubly hit this summer.
Rising cases of COVID-19 in the Central Okanagan region of B.C. have forced the provincial government to declare mandatory masking in indoor public spaces and recommended in crowded outdoor spaces, especially for the unvaccinated or partially vaccinated population.
While numbers of visitors to the region are greatest at this time of year, travel to and from the region is being strongly discouraged unless individuals are fully vaccinated.
Three wildfires this summer in Graystokes Provincial Park, east of Kelowna, also affected Kelowna residents.
Reports Frances Siemens, chair of First Mennonite Church, “We are living with a great deal of smoke from the surrounding fires and praying for rain to not only clear the air but douse the flames.
“The Kelowna Mennonite Church has acquired the assistance of a virtual pastor [Lisa Martens Bartel, who lives in Saskatchewan] following the retirement of our previous pastor at the end of last year. Her thoughtful messages are presented simultaneously to the congregants in our sanctuary and to those in their homes via Zoom.
“Our church is currently entering its 75th year serving spiritual messages to those living in the Kelowna area. Visitors are welcome to join us at all times when they arrive for holidays in this community. However, due to the recently increased cases of COVID-19 in the area, travellers have been encouraged to remain at home, and we are required to wear masks while we are indoors again.
“We are very thankful to everyone currently working to subdue the wildfires in the surrounding area. The smoke from the fires has increased dramatically, leaving the valley with very poor visibility in recent weeks.”
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