After attending church via virtual services for weeks, churchgoers on New Providence were finally given the green light to attend in person services yesterday.
On May 23, religious services were allowed to have drive-up services, which required those in attendance to remain in their cars. Almost one month after, they were prohibited from drive-up services and were only permitted virtual services.
Bishop Denczil Rolle of Life Worship Center located on Minnie and Ethel Streets, said it was refreshing to fellowship after a long wait to gather with his congregation.
“It’s a relief for us,” Rolle said yesterday.
“People view church as a ritual and that’s good. There are some who do it as recreation and that’s also good. It’s a time to recreate and get refreshed. For us, it’s a requirement. It goes beyond ritual and recreation. We believe that the coming together of believers in worship affects not only those in the worship space, but it affects the atmosphere and it affects the nation.”
Pastor Carlos Reid, CEO of the Hope Center on University Drive, said, “We have been doing drive-up services since we first got the green light, but it’s a good feeling when people can come to church together because there is nothing like physically being here.”
Reid said people have not fully adjusted to the new normal and many will not physically attend church for some time.
However, the pastor said that will not disrupt his goal in changing the lives of others.
“So many people are going through it,” he said.
“There are people who can’t pay their rent. They don’t know where the next meal is coming from. People are losing their minds. We just want this particular service to give some people hope. We know that people are still in fear of the virus.”
Jasper Thomas, a well-known Bahamian DJ who was at the Hope Center, said with the rising COVID-19 cases, the church will continue to see many people taking advantage of virtual services.
“There are a lot of people who are still scared or in disbelief that what’s happening is really going on,” Thomas said.
“Some people would rather watch virtually, which is fine.”
Kasprintina Jones, who is the director of children’s ministry at Life Worship Center, said despite tuning into the virtual church service every week, being allowed to physically attend church was something she missed.
“These people are not just church members, they are family,” Jones said.
“When you don’t see your family, you miss them. No, we can’t embrace like we normally do and hug one another. The ability to see one another and even dap with our elbows and just to smile at one another is a difference in presence.”
Jones described the scene of the church as an explosion.
“I think people came in so charged,” she said.
“They came with an expectation to be back in the presence, not that we can’t feel the presence at home, but to share in that presence with everyone else. The energy is different. I think it’s something you can’t put into words. It’s something you have to encounter.”
Minister Davonia Williams of Commonwealth Mission Baptist Church in Elizabeth Estates shared a similar view.
“It’s a good feeling when you can come together with other believers to worship,” Williams said.
“You can feel the love. People are excited to see one another. They are excited to connect in worship.”
She said even though people are likely to touch in a church setting, proper health protocols are being followed.
“People are now more cognizant of the times we are in now,” Williams said.
“It takes some adjusting. In the midst of worship we still use wisdom.”
Stafford Williams, who also attends Life Worship Center, said although he watched virtual services, a physical church service gives a different energy.
“I missed the comradery,” he said.
“I missed the brotherhood and sisterhood. You see the ushers, you see people participating in the service. You missed seeing that and being in the atmosphere. When the pastor is home streaming live, it’s not the same. Being together is God’s will.”