Church leaders across the island will be engaging Government in a discussion about the strict guidelines they will be required to follow as they again welcome congregations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barbados TODAY understands that at a virtual meeting scheduled for tomorrow with religious leaders and Minister of Labour and Social Relations Colin Jordan who has been assigned to deal with ecclesiastical affairs during the pandemic, church leaders will be asking for adjustments to be made to some of Government’s “heavier than usual requirements”.
One major restriction the leaders will be objecting to is the fact that there shall be no communion service involving worshippers, but where doctrine allows, the Minister may take communion on behalf of the worshippers.
Last Thursday, it was announced that churches and faith-based organisations will be permitted to resume services from June 1, 2020. On Saturday May 30, the Official Gazette published on the Government Information Service (GIS) website outlined the conditions under which services must take place, including the sanitizing of hands, temperature readings, and wearing of face masks.
Government also requires that each worshipper has at least 40 square feet of space for himself in the church unless they are members of the same household, while services shall be no longer than one hour.
No air-conditioning is to be used and windows and doors are to be kept open to allow for ventilation, while no hymnals, Bibles, leaflets or other materials shall be distributed to worshippers but worshipers may take their own.
There shall be no separate service for children, including Sunday and Sabbath school, no choir during service and no group practice or performance for or at worship or prayers. Those church members over 70 who wish to attend church will have to be accommodated at a “special” service organised for them..
Additionally, the protocols stipulate that there are to be no rituals that involve touching, including baptism or christening, laying on of hands, anointing, confirmation or dedication, while a record must be kept of all persons who attend every service and is to be available for inspection by the Chief Medical Officer or his designated officer.
Meanwhile, where multiple services are held on the same day, there is to be at least one hour between services for a full sanitization of the interior of the church, including all internal and external bathrooms, fixtures and equipment. Where prayer mats are used, worshippers are to take their own mats.
There is to be signage placed in conspicuous locations outside and within every church and the minister shall make announcements explaining the protocols to be followed before every service. Areas used by persons who become ill shall be closed for at least 24 hours and shall be thoroughly sanitized before use by others.
Additionally, people with temperature over 37.5 degrees Celsius are not allowed to enter the church and persons who are coughing repeatedly, sneezing or exhibiting flu-like symptoms are also prohibited from attending.
The restrictions have been a source of much discussion on call-in programmes and social media. People have been asking what happens if the church leader is 70 or older since persons in this age group can only attend a “special” service.
Barbados TODAY reached out to a number of church leaders who admitted that they were not pleased with the restrictions but indicated they hoped the scheduled meeting would influence some adjustments to the guidelines.
However, when contacted Chairman of the Barbados Christian Council Major Darrell Wilkinson said he was aware that several leaders are concerned about the restrictions. The main issue raised, he said, has been the restriction on communion.
“But there is a general acceptance among us of the protocols. Yes we find that it seems a little tough especially the restriction on the time and the different responsibilities that were not there before. We haven’t had any definitive plan as yet; we are just discussing it briefly. But some of us are not yet ready to move towards the resumption of gathering because all the protocols are not in place.
“We are still looking through them to see if there are any adjustments that can be made and then if there are we will make our presentation to the Government to see if there is anything they can do. But right now it remains as the Government puts it,” Major Wilkinson said.
The leader of a Pentecostal ministry said they were pleased that Minister Jordan and his team have acknowledged that some churches are not happy with the restrictions and are willing to make themselves available for dialogue.
The leader said they were particularly aggrieved about the restrictions on communion since several churches used disposal utensils during the session.
“I don’t want to talk before the meeting. But it is like you having a baby in the womb and you cut the umbilical cord, that baby will die. The Lord’s Supper, communion, is the life of the church. The Bible says in the book of St John Chapter 6 that unless you eat his body and drink his blood you have no life in you. When the body is deprived of the Lord’s Supper there is no life in the church. And I am sure that every pastor and every worshipper is concerned about not being able to have communion,” the church leader said.
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.