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COVID lockdown nixes some church rituals

Tithes and offerings, communion, baptism hurt by pandemic

Published:Tuesday | April 6, 2021 | 12:13 AMTamara Bailey/Gleaner Writer
Chantal Morris raises her hands in praising the Lord as Rev M. Wright preaches to the congregation present, and online, during a Sunday Easter service at McDonald Lane New Testament Church of God on April 4.
Chantal Morris raises her hands in praising the Lord as Rev M. Wright preaches to the congregation present, and online, during a Sunday Easter service at McDonald Lane New Testament Church of God on April 4.

A lockdown during the much-celebrated Easter holiday, according to members of the clergy, has not only made it difficult to carry out special services, but stay true to the important rituals of their faith.

Since the pandemic, some churches have had to put an indefinite pause on communion services and the initiation of new members by way of baptism, among other sacraments.

President of the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC), Newton Dixon, said the resumption of special services that cannot fit the new normal must be explored as a possibility, given the churches’ continued compliance with enforced law.

“It has been difficult for us to deal with a second set of restrictions for a second consecutive Easter because of the supreme significance of Easter. The restrictions restrain the centre piece of our faith.”

While he admits that there is presently no alternative to the new normal, Dixon is hoping that continued vaccinations will lift extreme measures.

“We have adopted to the new way, but we are hoping that ‘new normal’ is temporary and the development of COVID-19 protocols and vaccination will help us to emerge from this.”

WIDENED REACH

The clergyman said the Church’s reach has widened significantly, with geographical boundaries no deterrent to virtual services.

However, the Church, he said, has suffered many blows.

“We have given up aspects of worship, sacraments, tithe and offering which fund our ministries and programmes; we have given up a lot. Finding ways to do certain things is very difficult for some churches. While some churches can do communion by leaving the prepackaged wafer and wine for persons to drive by and pick up, others churches do not have the yard space, and that new way is not consistent right across the board because of mitigating circumstances”

Dixon said he is not protesting the protocols, but is hoping for better days and and even more positive experiences.

For Reverend Anthony Chung of the Ridgemount United Church in Manchester, the restrictions have been heavy, but cited that the church has grown accustomed to that which is required of them in this fight against COVID.

“We had Zoom worship on Friday, and on Sunday we have in-house worship with 10 people and the media team, and it went fairly well. We have become accustomed to doing this.”

He said though his church has not been able to baptise anyone, they have developed procedures to maintain contact with these prospective members with the hope that this act can be carried out at the soonest possible time.

“You can’t maintain physical distance with a baptism, so we will have that done when we are able to. For communion, we encourage people to have their emblems, we do a virtual service where we bless it, and we make do with what is available to us,” Chung said.

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