As the people of God we continue our journey amid the challenges of life. Hurricane Dorian struck last year and Covid-19, Coronavirus is our mammoth challenge this year. In every age, God has helped the Church through many a crisis. The words of the Psalmist are true: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…” (Ps. 46:1)
These situations of life, call us to employ an age old method available for solving the problems of life. God has created the world and everything in it. God has revealed Himself to us in many ways and continues to do so. God has allowed human beings to excel in every area of skill. We must take the best advice of these disciplines which God created and inspired, and through which God works regularly in our lives. Conclusions coming from persons in science and public health in The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands, and in other countries around the world, indicate that the virus spreads more in gatherings of people. Therefore, we have been encouraged to practice social distancing and to minimize gatherings. This is why the Governments of The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands have closed all schools, and this is why the Prime Minister, The Most Hon. Hubert Minnis, in his national address on Sunday evening, actually said that large public gatherings have been shown to be linked to the spread of the virus, and discouraged these.
As the Bishop of the Diocese, I therefore ask that we observe the following additional TEMPORARY measures:
(A)We will suspend all Church services, Bible Studies and meetings for two weeks from Thursday, 19th March to Saturday, 4th April, in the first instance. As the situation with the virus is evolving, we will evaluate the matter before we move forward. I repeat that is a TEMPORARY measure. In the meantime, Parishes may keep their Church Office open, and the Diocesan Office will remain open. When the Government directs that all but non-essential services close, then we will close our offices as well. We note that business places are already putting staff on staggered hours or closing.
These measures may seem drastic, but in many areas where the infection is now widespread, nations now regret not instituting stricter measures earlier. In many areas strict measures have caused infection to be more contained. As Bishop, I believe that it is our best stewardship at this time. These practices will help to “cut off the head of the monster” before it can grow stronger. By us practising containment and social distancing, that does not allow the virus to spread as much as if we act like it is “business as usual”. These actions are making sure that we are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper, and that we are helping to care for each other as Jesus expects of us.
(B) As we suspend public worship for a time we become a different sort of Church than we are accustomed to being. We are still God’s People. We continue to have hope and confidence in an all loving God, even as we adopt these temporary and unsettling measures. As Anglicans we encourage our people to continue their devotions at home. God is present everywhere and He will meet us wherever we are when we pray and worship. God will keep us in these extraordinary times as we continue to trust Him and to remain faithful to Him.
(C)Clergy and Parishes are encouraged to communicate with their Parishioners via telephone, social media, and the use of technology, where possible. This may include contact and prayers, or streaming morning and evening prayer and/or the daily mass. This will ensure that members do not feel cut off, and that clergy and lay leaders do not feel as if they are not paying attention to the flock.
(D)On Sundays, 22nd and 29th March, the Diocese is asked to focus on ONE Eucharist, from All Saints Chapel, Addington House, that I celebrate and preach at, and that will be broadcast via ZNS and Cable television and Streamed Live on Facebook and the Diocesan webpage. This Sunday (22nd March) the mass will be aired on ZNS TV at 11
am and on Cable TV at 2 pm.
(E) In keeping with the protocol of limiting gatherings, I ask that, in the case of weddings that have already been planned, we ask persons to (a) reschedule the wedding for a later time, or (b) reduce the number of guests attending the wedding to a bare minimum (since
gathering in large numbers increases the threat of contamination, especially when packed into close quarters). In other words, until this current crisis passes, have a small and “private style” wedding.
(F) In the case of funerals, please seek to have the family (a) postpone the funeral to a later date, or (b) arrange a family only funeral, with social distancing being highlighted.