KITCHENER -- Some places of worship in Waterloo Region are closing down amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while others are staying open and providing measures to keep their congregations safe.

St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Waterloo is one location staying open while adjusting their services.

“People usually shake hands and embrace,” said Father Frank Freitas. “Now we’re just asking them to pause or wave at each other and that a smile is a reminder of peace as well.”

Kevin Remington notes that the crowds have been down to less than 10 per cent of what they usually are over the past two weeks.

“If you got a terrible cold you don’t come to church because you don’t want to past it off to anyone else,” he said. “If you have a virus you don’t come to church. You’re not going to pass it on.”

Vivian Remington adds those in attendance are leaving plenty of space for others in their seating.

“People are very much focused on player and not despair,” said Freitas. “They’ve very much come to pray and just ask the Lord to accompany them.”

Ontario health officials have called for all public gatherings of 250 or more to be cancelled to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Going to church isn’t an option, it’s actually so much a part of their DNA that they have to do it,” said David Seljak, a professor of religious studies at the University of Waterloo. “Going to these kinds of services is more important, which is difficult because we’re not supposed to be gathering in large groups.”

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church also remains open, but has shut down its nursery and Sunday school.

“We decided to err on the side of caution,” said Rev. Herb Gale. “We’ve never seen anything like this, so in a sense this is brand new. It’s uncharted territory.”