Churches “delighted” to resume worship in sanctuaries

Churches “delighted” to resume worship in sanctuaries
Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander (FILE PHOTO)

Services to resume June 6; 30 percent of congregation to attend single service

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander said the church welcomes Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ announcement that church may resume in-sanctuary services next Tuesday.

“We will be outlining the protocols through public service announcements and radio this weekend, so all churches will know what are the council’s guidelines on how we ought to worship in sanctuaries with social distancing, spacing, sanitizing, wearing of masks…,” Fernander told Eyewitness News.

“And so, we are delighted that we are able to move into this phase.

“But it does not preclude those who still want to have drive-up service for those persons with comorbidities and who are aged or who are fearful, not to come.”

According to Fernander, notwithstanding the allowance, he does not expect every church to open next week as some will continue under the guidance of their international bodies, and await clearance.

He said others were still considering their protocols.

“But we are thankful that many will reopen and we will have the guidance to make our people safe, and to make sure it is secure. In the same way we secure ourselves in our society, is the same way we are going to secure ourselves in church

“We pray to God that we remain stable in our numbers and transmission.”

In an announcement last week, Bahamas Faith Ministries International said it was planning to facilitate the drive-up service, but even at the point of a full reopening would allow 30 percent of its congregation into the sanctuary for service.

Asked whether this was one of the guidelines of the council, Fernander said while the full guidelines will be made available soon, 30 percent of the church’s capacity is the guideline, particularly those of a larger congregation.

He said churches will explore multiple services to accommodate its full congregation, in addition to the other means of delivering the service to parishioners.

Fernander said: “But that is up to the church. Some people think 30 percent of their capacity is probably all the congregation or that 30 percent might be the number that might return to inside worship. Not everyone is going to rush right in to inside worship. As that happens, churches will have to make decisions on multiple services and maybe multiple days of service.”

Services were allowed to resume with restrictions on islands cleared to resume full commercial activity last Saturday.

These included Abaco, Andros, Long Island, Cat Island, Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins, Long Cay, Ragged Island and Rum Cay.

On other islands however, one-hour services could only be held as drive-up where attendees remain seated in their vehicles.

The announcement was met with strong mixed reactions from religious leaders, some of which rejected the measures as an affront on the church.

Fernander previously said the drive-up service was a good option toward the full reopening.

The prime minister’s declaration on the church, followed his announcement The Bahamas’ will move into ‘Phase 3’ of reopening next Tuesday.

This means further easements of restrictions to the 24-hour curfew — now a 9pm to 5 am weekly curfew — and the operation of non-essential businesses.

Additionally, the limit of attendants at weddings and funerals will be increased to 30 people, up from 10, as of next week with approval.

Elections

The council was expected to hold elections in June, but the body requested for the exercise to be postponed, and for Fernander to see the council through this time.

He said with the further easing of restrictions and reopening of sectors, the election will go forward.

“We were thankful that we were able to continue negotiations on behalf of the Bahamas Christian Council.

“As the president, our elections next week Tuesday were postponed because I was asked to take the council through this difficult period. It has been my privilege to negotiate on behalf of the council.”