An internal medicine doctor who is also a Christian wants churches in Winnipeg to close, while a pastor wants restrictions to return to Orange.

Sunday will be the first time churches in the Winnipeg Metro Region will meet under Red: Critical. This new order brings restrictions on gathering sizes to churches. As of Monday, churches were restricted to a maximum gathering size of 100 people, or a 15 per cent maximum capacity, whichever comes first.

Listen to how a Christian doctor and a pastor feel about church gatherings during the pandemic.

Tim Hiebert is a doctor in Winnipeg, specializing in palliative care and internal medicine at HSC. He also attends River East Mennonite Brethren Church. Hiebert says he wishes churches would temporarily close to in-person services.

"The public health order is the absolute minimum that Dr. Roussin expects from Manitobans. If we really want to win, we need to do more," Hiebert says.

The doctor says as Christians, people are called to serve and care for each other. Hiebert believes halting in-person services is how Manitobans can care for each other.

Church of the Rock's lead pastor, Mark Hughes, disagrees, stating that in-person services are important for the Christian community. The pastor says he is "not thrilled" to see restrictions tighten. 

"We are barely keeping this thing running as it is now and so I just do not see the churches being the problem what so ever."

Hughes adds that while churches may be open, people are not flocking back.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief public health officer, says that if there is a gathering of 100 people or more, there is a good chance someone has COVID-19.

Hughes says he has not heard of a church gathering where COVID-19 was spread, but Roussin says a faith-based gathering resulted in COVID-19 being brought into a care home.

Hughes says that churches have been doing a good job of keeping their parishioners safe at Level Orange and believes churches should be restored to its 30 per cent max capacity rate, along with the previous guidelines.

"We have figured out how to deal with this virus with the right distancing, masks, handwashing. I think you can completely avoid infection by this if you do what you need to do," the pastor says.

Churches must follow the guidelines set out by the province or they can face enforcement action which can include a $5,000 fine. While many churches such as Church of the Rock will be following the new 15 per cent rule, Hiebert says churches should do more than the minimum.

"When we gather together in corporate worship it is very meaningful for us but we can do it in other ways that do not cause the risk of transmitting the coronavirus around our community," Hiebert says. 

In September, Lucy Kaikai contracted COVID-19. The mother of two says she is glad she did not go to church when she started to feel ill despite faithfully attending Sunday services in person for months.

"(I) thank (God) for the wisdom he has given me to make choices that have helped keep others around me safe," Kaikai said in early fall. 

While most churches, including Church of the Rock, offer online services, Hughes says it is not the same as going to church.

"I am not engaging in near the way I do when I am part of a community," Hughes says. "I think the whole idea of the fact of what church is it is not just us meeting with God it is us meeting together and being a family."

Hiebert believes the best thing a church community can do for each other during the pandemic is to worship together, but online. The doctor says his church does its services through Zoom, which he finds meaningful.

"We can still have an intimate worship experience because we know that God will be present with us when worshipping together, even when we are not all in the same room."

Several churches across the City of Winnipeg have decided to do just that, closing to in-person worship. That includes Fort Garry MB church.

Hughes says for himself, wearing pyjamas and eating breakfast while attending an online church has a different feeling than worshiping inside the church. 

Hiebert believes churches should reach out to people in their churches but in ways that do not place large groups of people in one room.

"In terms of Christian churches and congregations, I do not believe churches have ever been as important as they are now in terms of caring for others."

While many have differing opinions, Hiebert says people can continue to pray for health and peace.