Some churches planning to ignore 30 attendees limit
A number of churches in the Netherlands seem to put no stock in the government's anti-coronavirus measure that limits church attendees to a maximum of 30. Many plan to ignore that limit, the Telegraaf reports based on conversations with and statements by a number of pastors.
On Monday, Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security agreed with the 30 church organizations in the CIO, the interdenominational group with which churches have contact in government affairs, that churches will also be subject to the limit on gatherings that apply to other indoor areas where the public gathers. That means a maximum of 30 people inside.
The meeting between the Minister and CIO was moved up a few days after the Hersteld Hervormde Gemeente in Staphorst caused outrage by having three services on Sunday, each attended by hundreds of people.
Hersteld Hervormde Gemeente has not yet decided whether it will be sticking to the limit. The consistory met on Monday to discuss it, but no decision was made, a spokesperson said to the newspaper. A seniors' gathering on Monday was canceled due to the commotion. Whether the bible reading will happen on Wednesday is not yet clear. The consistory will meet again later this week.
"I was very shocked about that," pastor Jules Dresme of the Vituskerk in Hilversum said to the Telegraaf about the limit on attendees. He called on church leaders to ignore this limit, and instead visibly enforce other measures like masks and social distancing.
"The situation in cafes and restaurants is different to that in churches," Dresme said. "It was the last opportunity for social contact for larger groups of people. I think it's a disaster for people's spiritual health. It is very disappointing and I am really fed up with it. I have already asked my diocese in Haarlem to make an exception to the rule for us."
In a sermon by pastor Arie Huijser of the Gereformeerde Gemeenten being shared on Twitter, he too seems to be calling on people to keep going to church despite the limit. According to him, the fact that the Staphorst church can accommodate 2,300 people is not mentioned in the news.
"And do you know what the plea will be? For me to show solidarity with the world. Let us as Christians show solidarity, yes with what? With football, the stadium, the pub, the theater?" he said. And: "We have already sacrificed so much when it comes to God's statutes. Should this also be sacrificed on the altar of the multicultural society? Just say health. I can assure that in a church building where normally 2,300 people can be seated and then there are only 600, that health is very well arranged."