'Come to the God Pod': How one Ottawa church is getting creative during the COVID-19 pandemic
OTTAWA -- St. John Lutheran Church in Ottawa's New Edinburgh neighbourhood has found a creative way to help people stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the front of the sanctuary is a see-through, 4' x 6' enclosed compartment, where parishioners can sit less than two metres apart from their pastor and they don't need to wear a mask.
That's because there's a glass partition between the two sides and an air filtration system to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It's called the "God Pod."
Pastor Rev. Joel Crouse says this allows parishioners to feel safe and connected to the church.
"We know that it's hard," he says. "There are weddings and there are funerals that are happening and we also know that spikes are happening because of those events. I think the church has a responsibility to be responsible and pivot in a way that is safe. This is a safe pivot."
Recent cases of COVID-19 have been linked to religious gatherings in some parts of the province, including a wedding in Toronto that led to dozens of infections.
Rev. Crouse says there is a strict cleaning protocol in place that was approved by Ottawa Public Health.
“You always let one person go out first you open the doors one at a time," he said.
Isabelle Geraets-Rose is a parishioner at St. John. She tells CTV News the pod helps her find the spiritual connection she's looking for.
"I need this," she says. "It's been really tough. Even today."
Her uncle died suddenly in Germany this summer and she wasn't able to attend the funeral.
So, she turned to the church and to Rev. Crouse.
“He said why don’t you come to the God Pod. I said 'what is this?'," she recalls. "And then, when I got in, I had no idea how much I missed seeing him and getting so much off my chest. The fact there was no mask and the glass was there; you really felt like you were free and safe."
A company in Kingston donated the pod to the church.
Crouse says there is already interest to expand pods beyond the church to allow for face-to-face meetings without the worry of spreading COVID-19.
"We have people who are hearing impaired asking to use the pod so they can read lips," Crouse says.