Several churches declared Friday they may find it “extremely challenging” to manage newly relaxed restrictions on who can attend physical church.
Prime Minister Mottley announced on Thursday evening that under Phase 3 of Government’s Plan to reopen the country which was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, normal church services and funeral services should be limited to 20 people.
But the president of the Barbados Evangelical Association (BEA) Dr Nigel Taylor while commending Government for moving in the direction of reopening churches, told Barbados TODAY that limited numbers may cause a division among congregations if it is not handled correctly.
He stressed that it is left to church leaders to be mature in choosing who attends the physical church without causing challenges.
Dr Taylor said: “You cannot say well the first 25 who come. You cannot say we only taking those who live in this area. If I am very fair with you I cannot answer how you will determine which 20 will come especially if you have a normal Sunday attendance of 70.
“It is going to be extremely challenging.”
The BEA leader also said that because churches are not functioning in normal times, he believes they must leave out some aspects of their services, including the presence of a choir.
He suggested that in circumstances where churches must be reconfigured, ushers will be required to police the proceedings, including ensuring persons wear masks, sanitizing stations remain stocked, members do not gather after service, amongst carrying out other critical responsibilities.
Dr Taylor told Barbados TODAY: “Now that the churches have been given the green light to reopen it will also put a very interesting spin on things. The Prime Minister says 20 but we also look at churches that might be able to hold more than that and I guess cases will be made to accommodate maybe a little bit more without violating the whole principle of social distancing. If that is done, the Barbados Evangelical Association is asking its ministers to supervise it with a great degree of care.”
He suggested church services should not go over an hour, and if two services must be held in one day, sufficient time must be allotted to sanitizing the area, before the start of the second service.
When church is finished, members should be encouraged to go home and not mingle in the yard, he said.
He declared: “Do not set aside the streaming you would have done in the past because we are going to recommend that senior people, although they love the Lord, just please stay at home.
“Those with temperature problems and symptoms that might have a question mark, just please stay at home and we would encourage the churches to still stream so these persons will have a feel of being in church.”
Major Darrell Wilkinson, Chairman of the Barbados Christian Council, also agreed that it is going to be difficult for church leaders to select who goes to the physical church building and who does not.
Major Wilkinson suggested that perhaps band and choir members may join leaders at the buildings for worship while streaming online.
“It does provide little variety for us in our presentation of the gospel because we are created for fellowship and the kind of fellowship we have with each other face to face is different to online. So us coming together as individuals makes a lot of difference,” he said.
Reverend Selwyn Brathwaite, executive secretary of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI), said that while many of the churches that fall under PAWI have large congregations, choosing 20 members to attend service in the same space will definitely be a challenging process.
He said PAWI also stressed that this has been a difficult period for churches since fellowship is about people together and interacting with each other.
“This will be a beginning for some of us being able to come back into our natural habitat for fellowship. Church is not an individualistic entity. It is something that is largely dependent on people coming together,” Reverend Brathwaite said.
The Prime Minister also indicated that Minister of People Empowerment Cynthia Forde and Minister of Labour Colin Jordan will enter into talks with the churches on the finer details of the restrictions.