Western Jamaica pastors cautious about new COVID church rules
CLERGYMEN IN western Jamaica are somewhat cautious about how church services are to be conducted during the upcoming two-week trial period announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Monday evening as part of the effort to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
During a press conference at Jamaica House, Holness announced new rules for churches and bars, which have had their operations curtailed amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in 505 infections and nine deaths.
Among the new rules, churches must conduct temperature checks of worshippers, and congregants must wear masks and submit to a sanitisation programme. In addition, the convening of choirs has been outlawed.
Dr Karl Archer, president of the North Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, told The Gleaner on Tuesday that his organisation is holding meetings to discuss how the guidelines will be enforced.
“I’m very pleased with the suggestions that were given, and I feel they are very reasonable and can certainly work once the churches act responsibly,” said Archer.
“There has to be significant supervision to ensure that the churches act responsibly, and we’re already having meetings to address the situation,” said Archer.
The Reverend Hartley Perrin, custos of Westmoreland and pastor of the Petersfield-based St Peter’s Anglican Church in the parish, said that he would have liked to have seen a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases prior to any reopening of the churches, especially because older congregants are among the most vulnerable groups for the virus.
“I entertain a level of reservation because I would prefer to watch the COVID numbers on the decline and smoothing off with a level of consistency over a little period of time, before I say that churches can try to open again, even in a limited way.
“Our churches mainly consist of older people, the same ones that we are encouraging to stay at home, and when they are coming to church they don’t know who they’re going to be meeting in the taxi, yet they are the ones who are vulnerable to the assault of COVID-19,” said Perrin.
Meanwhile, the Reverend Glenroy Clarke, pastor of the Lucea United Church in Hanover, said that churches should adjust to see COVID-19 as a new normal in Jamaica.
“I think COVID-19 is a new normal for all of us, and it is seemingly here to stay, so the church, like any other organisation within the country, has to prepare for this new normal. We have to do church differently and observe all the protocols established by the public health authority and the Government,” said Clarke.