The church has not escaped the disruption caused by COVID-19, but the pandemic has created opportunities for use of technology in the church and drawn in more congregants virtually, according to Anglican Bishop Reverend Michael Maxwell.
Speaking during an online discussion on the topic, COVID-19 and the Church, last Thursday, he noted that many Sunday services and other prayer programmes have had to move online because of COVID-19 social distancing protocols. But he said this expanded use of online technology is one of the few positives coming out of the pandemic.
“That is one of the significant positives, I believe, that has come out of having to deal with the closure of our churches; and of course then having to find a medium through which we could communicate and offer our various types of worship. We wanted to make sure that during our lockdown, we allowed our clergy to be in contact with our parishioners to assist them during this period,” he said during the discussion which was organised by the Barbados Diocesan Altar Servers’ Association to shine a light on how local churches have adapted to the pandemic as they seek to keep in contact with their members.
Churches have been open for regular service for some time now, but Bishop Maxwell said numbers were still not as high in-house as they once were.
One positive side effect of this, he said, was that online viewership of services has continued to rise.
“Even although churches have reopened, we recognise that there are persons who are not yet comfortable returning to in-person worship. We felt there was a need to still reach those individuals, recognising as well, through this particular medium of technology, when we check the number of persons who are observing the services [online], we can’t imagine one or two of our churches holding that level of congregation within them. We have recognised that we have actually reached others who possibly would have never entered the four walls of our churches,” the Bishop disclosed.
Dr Wendy Sealy, a lecturer in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the University of West Indies Cave Hill Campus who also took part in the discussion, said that though parishioners may have a fear of returning to church during this time, their health and safety should remain paramount in their daily activities.
“I think it’s important not to drive fear but to hit home the importance of following the protocols because, for me, prevention is better than cure. Prevention is the message in public health that is always preached first, because when you prevent you don’t then have to think about how you will handle the illness, how you will be taken care of, or even if you will die. The reality is there and the risk is there, not only for the older folks who may have pre-existing conditions, but also the younger folk,” she said.