By EARYEL BOWLEG
CHURCH leaders have agreed to temporarily suspend services in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said yesterday.
Religious leaders are encouraging the public to continue to worship at home and to follow online worship services in the short-term.
Anglican church services, Bible studies and meetings have been suspended for two weeks as of today to Saturday, April 4, as additional temporary measures against the pandemic.
An update sent yesterday from Anglican diocese Bishop Laish Boyd noted COVID-19 is the church’s “mammoth challenge this year”. He said that these practices will help to “cut off the head of the monster” before it can grow stronger.
“We will suspend all church services, Bible studies and meetings for two weeks from Thursday, 19th March, to Saturday, 4th April, in the first instance. As the situation with the virus is evolving, we will evaluate the matter before we move forward. I repeat that is a temporary measure.”
He also urged people with upcoming weddings and funerals to either scale down or postpone the events. Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has warned that large gatherings are linked to the spread of the virus.
“In keeping with the protocol of limiting gatherings, I ask that in the case of weddings that have already been planned, we ask persons to (a) reschedule the wedding for a later time, or (b) reduce the number of guests attending the wedding to a bare minimum, since gathering in large numbers increases the threat of contamination, especially when packed into close quarters. In other words, until this current crisis passes, have a small and ‘private style’ wedding,” Bishop Boyd advised..
“In the case of funerals, please seek to have the family (a) postpone the funeral to a later date, or (b) arrange a family only funeral, with social distancing being highlighted.”
Anglicans are encouraged to still continue their devotions at home. Bishop Boyd said clergy and parishes will communicate with their flock via telephone, social media, and the use of technology, where possible. Parishes may keep their church office open and so will the diocesan office, but they will be closed when the government directs that all but non-essential services close.
The diocese was asked to focus on one Eucharist at All Saints Chapel, Addington House, where Bishop Boyd preaches, on March 22 and 29. It will be broadcast on ZNS and cable television and streamed live on Facebook and the diocesan webpage. This Sunday mass will be aired on ZNS TV at 11am and on local cable TV at 2pm.
Bishop Boyd said the “measures may seem extreme” but were “necessary in the short-term”.
“I know that as clergy these measures are traumatising to us and highly upsetting. However, as bishop, I must make decisive steps to assist in protecting our flock and in taking steps that will reduce the spread of this virus. The urgency of this matter demands the utmost cooperation from us all. The church also has a responsibility to contribute to national efforts to ensure well-being.”
Bishop Boyd said the break in normal activities and routine will “not harm the church or diminish her” as the church has experienced far worse in history such as persecution, suffering and having to go underground. Yet, the church came out “stronger and uncompromised” in these tough times, he said.