“No Junkanoo, no excuse not to attend church”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander said yesterday that religious services slated for the Christmas holiday will take on a hybrid model to include virtual, drive-up and in-person worship, in order to comply with COVID-19 protocols.
Fernander also indicated that given the circumstances, some churches will also hold multiple services that will require attendees to reserve which service they intend to attend.
During a national address on Sunday, the prime minister announced a further relaxation of measures in The Bahamas in order to celebrate Christmas, noting the country has been doing “generally well” with COVID-19 cases.
This included allowing religious services to be held during curfew hours, and after 10pm to accommodate midnight mass and watch night services on all islands beginning December 24.
Fernander noted the BCC is very thankful that the decision has been made to relax those restrictions due to the importance of “lifting up the spirit of the country” at this time.
“We are going to do our very best to enforce all of the protocols that we have been doing and trying to make this time of celebration, maybe the only one we have together as a country, meaningful and impactful and [safe],” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, churches have had to shift worship methods to limit the number of people gathering.
Fernander said the same will have to be implemented to accommodate the expected increase in attendees at holiday services.
“There’s no Junkanoo, so there’s going to be more people without excuses why they can’t come to church and so we are going to have facilities that are probably going to see a larger volume as normal,” he said.
“We will all be packaging programs and some will be totally cyber, and then there will be some within the physical space, according to what the space allows.
“And even this year some will be in parking lots and parks and they will use the drive-up models and have worship that way.
“But we are going to be very very creative.”
Asked whether there is any concern for churches that may go past the time allotted, Fernander noted that that is being addressed.
“I have spoken to denomination heads. They are going to run multiple services, and this might be the first time ever you have to book your time for worship… Unfortunately, this year we are going to have to run multiple services unless you have the massive facilities that you can take the massive amount of people coming.”
Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said he believes Bahamians and residents will strictly adhere to the curfew exemption for religious services and not use the provision to engage in social events and parties.
“Bahamians are honest and respectable,” Minnis said in response to questions from the media outside the House of Assembly.
“I respect them for that and I am sure and certain that they will comply with laws and regulations.”
Asked about the existing curfew and whether it could be relaxed further, the prime minister suggested it will remain in place “straight through” the holidays.