Churches preparing for “new norm”, high-risk parishioners discouraged when doors re-open

Churches preparing for “new norm”, high-risk parishioners discouraged when doors re-open
Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander (FILE PHOTO)

Christian Council says churches will adhere to all social distancing guidelines

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — When churches are allowed to reopen in the second phase of the government’s economic plan, Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander said parishioners can expect a “new norm”.

Fernander suggested the new protocols will see churches discourage high-risk parishioners, the “very young and the very old, and those with underlying co-morbidities”, from attending services.

Churches will occupy around 30 percent of their space, implement six feet markers at entrances, and consider seating arrangements, he said

Sanitizing stations will also be established, and churches will ensure members continue to wear masks during worship.

Fernander said as churches await the prime minister’s announcement, he hopes the council will be given advance notice to properly educate members on the new practices.

He assured the church will not be a special entity or exempted, and will comply across the board with all the social distancing guidelines and other requirements.

“We knew phase one and two was happening and we wrote to say what would be happening,” Fernander told Eyewitness News.

“One ‘A’ and one ‘B’ has already started.

“Phase two could start the end of May or during May going into June. So, we put forth that sanitization of churches, six feet apart, and what would be the new norm for churches to worship.

He said: “We presented it and it was accepted by the prime minister as achievable approach to phase two when churches are opened. He gave us a date when he was thinking about opening churches, but he would have to convey that to the nation when the numbers are right.”

As places of worship remain physically closed to parishioners, many churches are offering virtual services while The Bahamas combats local spread of COVID-19.

“We are not apart from the nation being phased in,” Fernander continued.

“We put it this way and he expressed that they (government) were taking care of the temple and we were focusing on the spiritual and the nation needs both.”

A 24-hour curfew has been in place and closure of international and domestic borders has been in place since March 23.

Churches cancelled services and closed their doors just days later.

In an address to Parliament Monday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced the extension of emergency powers until May 30.

He also presented the government’s six-phase approach to easing restrictions and reopening portions of the economy before opening the borders.

Phase two, “Expanding Operations”, will see businesses that can scale up delivery and curbside service increase, and place of worship resume services.

This phase also provides for a relaxation on exercise restrictions, which has been limited to 90 minutes.

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