Church views new restrictions with suspicion
Members of the clergy in western Jamaica say the disparity in the most recent COVID-19 containment measures announced on Sunday by Prime Minister Andrew Holness covering weddings, funerals and church services leaves room for suspicion.
Calling for greater clarity into the reasoning behind the restrictions, the church leaders questioned the rationale behind limiting churches to online services – with no more than 10 persons gathered to facilitate streaming –and halting funerals while allowing weddings to proceed with a 25-person limit.
Funeral services and burials which were already scheduled for up to March 8 will be allowed to take place.
Reacting to the announcement, Pastor Glenroy Clarke of the Lucea United Church in Hanover said the disparity presents an untidy situation.
“I look forward to more information because right now there is ambiguity as to why you allow weddings with 25 people, but no funerals at all and no church service. I support scaling down, but the context of ambiguity brings about a culture of suspicion and doubt,” Clarke told The Gleaner.
“You can put off your wedding, and you do not have to have a big wedding – as the two of you can come to me with two witnesses and get married – but you do not choose to die. When you have weddings with 25 people, but you cannot have prayer meetings or worship services with even 20 persons, and you cannot have funeral services at all, then I have a challenge as to the rationale and the reason,” added Clarke.
Pastor Glen Samuels, president of the St James-based West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, was of the same mind.
“The furthest in terms of the time for night services is an hour and a half, and most weddings go for longer than that. If you are going to allow 25 people for a wedding, why not allow the same 25 people for a church service and challenge them to abide by the law or whatever protocol you are putting in place for the wedding?” asked Samuels.
Westmoreland Custos Reverend Hartley Perrin, who is pastor of the Petersfield-based St Peter’s Anglican Church, said that the prime minister’s announcement will put undue pressure on the church community, especially those not equipped to engage streaming services.
“If it is that you respect the Church, and the Church has been doing significantly well in terms of observing the relevant protocols, why put more pressure on the Church? When he (Holness) speaks about 10 persons in church for streaming, what of those churches that do not have the facilities in terms of the Internet or the technicalities that are required for such streaming to take place? I interpret it to mean we need to close our doors,” said Perrin.