Anglican Bishop Reverend Laish Boyd has suspended all Anglican church services, Bible studies and meetings for a two-week period from today through Saturday, April 4. As the situation with COVID-19 evolves, he said they would look at re-evaluation of the temporary measure before moving forward.
Boyd, bishop of the Diocese of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, said in the interim period, he would celebrate and preach one Eucharist on two consecutive Sundays, March 22 and 29 from All Saints Chapel, Addington House, which will be broadcast via ZNS and Cable television, and also livestreamed on Facebook and the diocesan webpage.
The Sunday, March 22 mass will be aired on ZNS television at 11 a.m. and on Cable TV at 2 p.m.
Boyd encouraged Anglicans 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,” said the Anglican bishop via press release.
In keeping with the government-mandated protocol of limiting gatherings, Boyd said that in the case of weddings that have already been planned, they’re asking people to reschedule for a later time, or 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.
“Until this current crisis passes, have a small and ‘private style’ wedding,” said Boyd.
In the case of funerals, the Anglican chief encouraged families to seek to postpone the funeral to a later date, or arrange a family-only funeral with social distancing highlighted.
“These measures may seem extreme, but they are necessary in the short term,” said Boyd. “They demand huge adjustments from us all, and inflict a great deal of discomfort. I know that as clergy, these measures are traumatizing to us and highly upsetting. However, as bishop, I must make decisive steps to assist in protecting our flock and in taking steps that will reduce the spread of this virus. The urgency of this matter demands the utmost co-operation from us all.”
He said the church also has a responsibility to contribute to national efforts to ensure well-being.
As the Anglican church suspends public worship, Boyd said they become a different sort of church than they are accustomed to being, but that they are still God’s people.
“One thing we know is the fact that this break in normal church activity and routine will not harm the church or diminish her. In many periods of history, the church had to go underground, limit her scope of activity and movement, and endure far worse – even persecution and suffering – and the church has come out stronger and uncompromised. Let this time drive us closer to our God rather than draw us away from each other or from the church.”
Boyd said Anglicans continue to have hope and confidence in an all-loving God, even as they adopt the temporary and unsettling measures.
While they encourage people to practice social distancing and to minimize gatherings, in the meantime, Boyd said 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, he said they would then close their 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,” said Boyd.
“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 practicing 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 sister’s keeper, and that we are helping to care for each other as Jesus expects of us.”
During the temporary suspension, the Anglican chief encouraged clergy and parishes to communicate with parishioners via telephone, social media and to make use of technology where possible. He said this may include contact and prayers, or streaming morning and evening prayer and/or daily mass, which he said would 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.
“COVID-19, coronavirus is very upsetting and frightening, but scripture challenges us to ‘fear not’. This does not mean that we must not or will not be afraid, because fear is a normal human reaction; it is an unpleasant emotion caused by danger or threat. ‘Fear not’ means that we must not be overcome by panic, hysteria and the loss of control – because God has given us cognition, learning and wisdom to moderate and subject fear, and this is what we must employ in this challenge,” he said.
Boyd said coronavirus and its implications tests and challenges people’s faith, but with the help of God and His grace, God would bring His people through.
He encouraged Anglicans to make use of prayers for the presence of Christ, strength, courage, and a coronavirus prayer.