Letter of the Day | A call for Sunday movement
THE EDITOR, Madam:
The COVID-19 pandemic is disruptive and destructive. Our citizens, like many others worldwide, are frustrated and grieving, and many are asking, when will this all end? When will our country be able to return to some semblance of normality?
One strategy that will not help in getting the nation back to a path of wellness is the locking down of the country on a Sunday, one of the primary days for corporate worship for most Jamaicans.
In his recent update on containment measures for COVID-19, Prime Minister Andrew Holness informed the nation that the no-movement days will be reduced from three to one – Sunday. He explained that the strategy of three-day lockdowns was not sustainable, and that the approach yielded limited success.
He agreed with the opinions expressed by many that it encouraged bungling, frustrated commerce, and negatively impacted the livelihood of thousands of Jamaicans. However, instead of reversing the strategy, the Government has stipulated that until October 28, Sundays will remain no-movement days. This announcement regarding Sundays continues to puzzle many, who question the thinking behind it.
The prime minister explained to the nation the reasoning behind the discontinuation of Mondays and Tuesdays as no-movement days, but did not give a clear and logical explanation as to why Sundays should remain as such. As a result of this approach, the prime minister’s stipulations have attracted many negative reactions and interpretations, especially from those who regard Sundays as their designated day for corporate worship.
The churches, to a large extent, have demonstrated discipline in adhering to the measures outlined by the Ministry of Health and Wellness, and continue to support many of the strategies geared at curtailing the spread of the virus. Churches, therefore, should not suffer because of the indiscipline of others, including government officials, who breach curfew orders and pay scant regard to the law.
I am not of the view that the prime minister is targeting churches, but I strongly believe that he and his team are not giving enough regard to the concerns of churches. I am, therefore, proposing that Sundays should not be designated a no-movement day, and that the prime minister consider terminating the curfew at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, with resumption at 4 p.m. on that day, so that Jamaicans who wish to physically attend their place of worship may be afforded the opportunity to do so.
The fact that for the other six days businesses are allowed to operate between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., it would not be unfair to ask them to be closed on a Sunday to help to manage movement. I am also proposing that churches be allowed to host a maximum of 40 worshippers, but should not exceed half of the seating capacity of the building. Worship services should not exceed two hours, and all the other protocols should be observed.
While many churches have the technology to facilitate online worship, we are cognisant that a large number of Jamaicans do not have Internet access, and find it difficult to purchase a data plan for their devices in order to benefit from those services. The Church is a lifeline for thousands of Jamaicans. While we continue to strengthen our online reach, I believe that for many, the corporate physical gathering for worship has an unquestionable holistic impact and should not be taken away.
I am convinced that if my recommendations are considered and implemented, then it would seem more equitable and not appear that commercial and other interests take precedence over the need for corporate worship.
If the Government is really serious about helping Jamaicans to survive this season that is causing great dislocation, mental and emotional stress, then the Church will have to continue to play a key role in this effort. No-movement Sundays is not the way to achieve this desired result.
REV DR ROY NOTICE
The New Testament Church of God, Jamaica