The number of people infected with the coronavirus is worryingly high, churches find. While churches were closed during the first wave and people could tune in to services online, houses of worship are staying open this time around. Congregations are handing out masks and making sure churchgoers are dispersed.
Ove Sander, minister of the Nõmme Rahu Congregation and Ministry of Social Affairs chief chaplain, said that his church caters to around 100 people on Sundays. The church could fit no more as coronavirus measures dictate 50 percent occupancy, "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported.
Sander said that the role of the church is considerable when it comes to people's mental health.
"This is where the church has a significant role to play, which is why we are trying to keep churches open so that people can come in to pray, remember lost loved ones and find new strength to weather these challenging times," he said.
Congregations have people who have not vaccinated for an assortment of reasons.
"I believe the church should send the message that vaccination is beneficial, necessary and important even more clearly and strongly, that vaccination is in no way contrary to the Christian faith and love," Sander explained.
Member of the synod of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Patriarchy of Moscow Sergei Männik said that the important thing is to keep church doors open and bring down the number of infected. Members of the clergy and church employees have also taken ill.
Männik said that safety precautions are being observed to make sure churches can remain open. While churches do not check immunization certificates, people are recommended to get vaccinated.
"There are those who say they do not want to be vaccinated and refuse to be. They are afraid of something. Others go in for the shot, no problem. We are not telling anyone to go. Ministers tell people that they need to make their own decision and recommend vaccination," Männik said.
Archbishop of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) Urmas Viilma, who is currently in Canada, urges people who doubt the merits of vaccination to speak to their family doctor.
"Ask for advice and make the decision. As someone who has had direct contact with the virus, I can tell you that being vaccinated means I'm only experiencing it as a slight cold. I cannot even imagine what it would be like were I not vaccinated. Of course, everyone must make their own decision," Viilma said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski