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Photo of the Faith and Spirituality Centre. // Photo by ShangNong Hu.

University prayer space guidelines during COVID-19

By Nikayla Goddard, September 18 2020—

The Faith and Spirituality Centre is an important hub for many on the University of Calgary campus, and while operations and spaces look a bit different in light of COVID-19, the centre is still offering programming and prayer spaces with some new guidelines. 

Debbie Bruckner, Senior Director – Student Wellness – Access and Support, explained that the university prayer space plan is guided by the need to comply with the provincial guidelines for places of worship and the UCalgary COVID-19 Re-Entry Protocols, so the plan is fairly straightforward in implementing the Alberta Health relaunch guidance. 

“When we took a look at those two protocol documents and the prayer spaces, we tried to ensure there was capacity in all of the spaces to allow for social distancing,” Bruckner explained. “So that helped us choose which spaces to re-open, and then how to enable social distancing and masking. There does have to be the distancing between people. If the distancing can be maintained in a space, just like a classroom, people may choose not to use masks. But when they are entering a space or if social distancing can’t be maintained, then they would use a mask, which is consistent with the university protocol.”

The spaces that are open right now include the Foothills site, HSC 1001, a smaller space with capacity for four people, and the two large spaces in the Vitruvian Space in the Dining Centre, DC12B and DC 14 and two ablution stations, one for female-identifying users and another for male-identifying users. Each of these spaces has a maximum capacity to allow for a 2 meter separation between members of different households, but “there shouldn’t be any difficulty in being able to welcome all users,” Bruckner added. 

Other changes include communal or shared prayer mats being removed, added directional signage and floor decal markers so people can place themselves in the room and removal of fabric-based items.

As Bruckner mentioned, masks are required to enter and exit the space, as well as if social distancing cannot be maintained in these spaces. The consequences for not following the regulations fall under the university’s purview, where people can be subject to the City’s fine, as well as the potential to be suspended or expelled.

She also said that the prayer spaces are open to anyone, not just people identifying with a particular religion, and serve as a quiet space for meditation or reflection for anyone. 

Bruckner remarked, “I think the really strong commitment that the university and Faith and Spirituality Centre has to ensure that students, staff and faculty have a safe space to participate in daily prayer, reflection and meditation, is so supportive of well-being, especially in a time where we are having trouble in terms of connecting to community.” 

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