Fernander: Churches can operate similarly to Parliament

Fernander: Churches can operate similarly to Parliament
Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander (FILE PHOTO)

Scores of parishioners attended drive-up services despite inclement weather

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander said while granting churches the option to offer drive-up services is a good first step toward it reopening, he believes the church can operate similarly to sessions of Parliament, during which politicians wear masks and socially distance in the House of Assembly on Bay Street.

Drive-up services have been limited to one hour between 7am and 1pm.

He noted that while the average church service is approximately two hours, Parliament for example meets for hours in building that is smaller that most churches.

“They are meeting in close quarters, much tighter than most churches,” Fernander told Eyewitness News.

“Their membership is greater than what we are purporting to have right now in churches.

“And so, if they can do it and they have been safe, along with you the reporters and the politicians — if we bring those same procedures to churches, I’d like to know what bars us from having worship.”

According to the president, the church is prepared to reopen and keep with best practices to prevent the spread of the virus.

Fernander said he plans to present to health advisors this week the church’s comprehensive plan to reopen while preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

On uninfected islands that have been approved to resume full commercial activity, services may be held in the sanctuary though social distancing and hygiene protocols must be maintained.

On islands, which remain in ‘Phase 1B’, including New Providence and Grand Bahama, cservices may only be held as drive-up service where attendees remain seated in their vehicles; services is limited to one hour; and only four people from the immediate household can be in one vehicle.

High-risk people and those aged 65 and older have been asked not to attend.

Notwithstanding inclement weather, scores of parishioners drove into the parking lots of Pilgrim Baptist Church on Kemp Road and Believers Faith Outreach Ministries on Carmichael Road to attend service.

Other churches maintained their virtual services yesterday, including Bahamas Faith Ministries International.

BFM Senior Pastor Dave said the church will begin drive-up service next Sunday and broadcasted to service in the parking lot.

BFM Senior Pastor Dave Burrows

He said: “As soon as the government allows then we will have a limited capacity service, which would be about 25 percent. But that is a few weeks down the road.”

He said the pandemic has forced the church to be creative and adapt, but it cannot allow “any situation to master us”.

Bahamas Harvest Church and Mount Tabor Church also held virtual services.

Bahamas Harvest Church Pastor Mario Moxey

Pastor Mario Moxey of Bahamas Harvest Church will host a relaunch meeting next Sunday at 7pm with parishioners to outline the way forward toward reopening.

Pushback

While services on reopened island may offer communion under strict health protocols, communion is not permitted elsewhere.

But Fernander said the church does not operate in a vacuum and has considered best practices, including preparing pre-packaged communion to keep with social distancing requirements.

He noted some churches do not have the capacity do to drive-up services and will take a “wait and see [approach] for the next phase”.

There has been strong pushback from some religious leaders to the continued restrictions.

Fernander acknowledged this.

“It is a mixed review,” he said.

“I think it is a good step towards ‘Phase 2’, which is what is happening in all of the reopened islands.”

He added: “We are being very cautious because the idea is we do not want anyone to get sick.”