Has COVID-19 changed the way we worship?
by Katherine Renton
“As Christians we’re involved in the business of saving lives.”
And therefore the church will always be open to responding to situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic when they arise, Bishop Rt Reverend Leopold Friday of the Windward Diocese of the Anglican Church has explained.
“…because Jesus was crucified, died and rose again and that was for our salvation,” so that we may have life and have it more abundantly, the Bishop noted.
The religious leader was speaking on the question of the sections of church services that have had to change because of COVID-19 and what that means to a person’s faith.
At one point in time services were suspended altogether for churches like the Anglican church, who reopened on the weekend of May 8 to 10, after the Ministry of Health relaxed their guidelines to include persons that can fit the capacity of the church while social distancing.
This decision to return to church was also made based on the country’s ability to contain the virus, Friday explained.
“This is not a time to return to old habits and unchanged routines. We have to adjust to new norms, if we forget this reality; we put others, ourselves and our families at risk. We must act RESPONSIBLY,” the Bishop explained in a circular to Anglicans and clergy.
They have adopted many changes, including ensuring that six feet remains between church goers, the avoidance of holding hands during worship, handshakes during the sign of peace, no hugging and greeting with a kiss, modification of collection of the offering, Communion is to be administered in one kind, the churches must be cleaned and sanitized before and after every service, sanitizing stations must be provided, and a mask should be worn.
“…Historically whenever there’s a pandemic the church has responded in this way,” Bishop Friday revealed.
“Even though as individuals may have a particular faith response it is not something that we can force on people while the pandemic is going on and so it is better for us to respond in this way as a safeguard because we’re dealing with people’s fears as well,” he further explained.
He also mentioned that it was better for the church to respond as a body to these matters.
In the case of the Communion, the church has had a practice of giving it in one kind, such as when they visit persons who are shut in, the Bishop noted.
In the case of the cut down on hugging, and imposition of physical distance, he recognizes that this may be difficult for persons.
“Something a lot of people came to church for is not only to worship and so forth for a lot of people it’s the fellowship, it’s the experience, it’s the share,” he explained.
Further, Friday revealed, “…It has affected a lot of people emotionally during this period that they cannot really come together with those that they know and they love and so forth and share that fellowship.”
However, not all the changes have been negative for the church. During the period of social distancing, and suspension of physical services, there have been virtual services recorded by the church, and meetings facilitated by Zoom.
“Through this means we are able to reach people, who we do not normally reach,” the Bishop said, such as internationally, or those in lockdown in other parts of the region.
Virtual bible studies are also proving more convenient for some persons, when it comes to transportation and time.
The local Roman Catholic Diocese began physical services on June 6/7, and have applied the same protocols as the Anglican church, as they are following the Ministry of Health guidelines.
Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on June 4, Bishop Gerard County C.S.Sp. of the Roman Catholic Church indicated that the church decided to reopen when it did, so that it may prepare for the social distancing and sanitization requirements of the Ministry.
There have also been changes to the time for the Sunday Mass which previously took place at nine o’clock, but is now scheduled for 10 am, to give time for sanitization of the church after the first Mass.
Commenting on the specific changes to the Mass, Bishop County noted that giving peace and saying the ‘Our Father’ prayer is still being done, albeit differently. In the case of Communion being offered in one kind, he noted that the members of the congregation through receiving the body only, “are receiving the body and blood, and in fact in many churches abroad, in the United States or wherever, it is just the body under the one specie of the bread is given. So they need not worry about that at all.”
Commenting on how the church has changed generally over the period of COVID-19, Country stated “Everybody’s saying that the normal that we know will not be the normal so we just have to wait and see.”
“Virtual communication and meetings seem to be a way to go as we got accustomed to it, not necessarily for Mass I mean, but probably for meetings. We have to see, but certainly it would not be the old normal as they say, but we wait and see,” he concluded.