WINDSOR, ONT. -- Some Windsor-Essex faith leaders are cancelling in-person services over the holidays and urging people follow public health measures after the increased spread of COVID-19 in the community.

The local faith leaders issued an open letter to the people of Windsor-Essex.

“We write you today in the spirit of this love: we humbly encourage you to follow the recommended public health guidelines, and we also write to let you know we will be doing the same,” said the letter.

The letter is signed by Rev. Robert Clifford, Rector at All Saints' Anglican Church in downtown Windsor and Rev. Rielly McLaren, Pastor at Windsor Mennonite Fellowship.

“As a tangible expression of our love, we will suspend our large onsite, in-person gatherings for alternative methods of worship that follow appropriate health guidelines,” the letter continued. “Don’t get us wrong: we love to gather and worship together on Sunday mornings, but our faith is so much more than one day a week, and we consider it an honour to lay down our privileges for the sake of our neighbours and larger community.”

In the pre-Christmas Advent season, many people are accustomed to gathering for worship, study, prayer and confession.

“But because we love you, some of the ways the church goes about being the church will be different in the midst of the current season of escalating public health alert,” said the faith leaders.

The message said the church communities have limited onsite worship to prevent their buildings from becoming epicentres for the spread of COVID-19. It is only expected to be for a short period of time.

“Living sacrificially means we have to think differently about how we approach things and for the first 400 years of the church they wouldn’t even know what a church building was,” McLaren said.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of London also supports the spirit of the open letter.

In a statement to CTV Windsor, they say:

“If the Windsor-Essex Health Unit is moved into grey/lockdown response level, our diocese will cancel all in-person public Masses in the region until we are advised that it is safe to resume them.”

Other church communities are limiting the numbers and movements of people within their buildings in strict adherence to the physical distancing and wearing face masks.

Many congregations have moved to online forms of worship and dusted off phone call-out lists.

“We know there are some church communities that have chosen a different path and will continue to gather throughout the coming weeks – while we disagree with their approach, we will, as always, uphold them in prayer,” said the letter.

They encourage worshipers to explore the social media streams and websites of these and other communities.

In person religious events are also cancelled in the Jewish community beginning this evening-the beginning of Hanukkah.

“We would have a very big Hanukkah event in the Devonshire Mall which brings 300/350 people,” says rabbi Sholom Galperin, director at Chabad of Windsor.

He says the Festival of Lights and eight days of Hanukkah will be celebrated online.

“We’re so busy with Hanukkah on a normal pre-covid year so maybe this is a time to focus just on our families," Galperin said.

There is a capacity limit of 30 per cent for religious services in the ‘Red-Control’ restriction zone. If Windsor-Essex moves to ‘Grey-Lockdown’, the fifth and most restrictive level of the province’s shutdown framework, only 10 people would be allowed inside religious facilities.

“It’s good to find the right balance of how you can balance the risk and also provide a service, which can be virtual, which can be so many different ways to support the community,” said Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit hasn’t put out any specific recommendations outside of the provincial guidelines.