We want to assure our nation’s political leaders of our prayerful, patriotic support.
When this national health crisis began, we gave our unequivocal support as we believed then that the emergency orders and the protocols and regulations which followed were necessary and imperative.
We have now concluded that this crisis, though new and unprecedented, is missing the power and essential benefits of collective, public worship.
Forty-three Bahamians have died from COVID-19 and hundreds more have contracted the coronavirus; the Bahamian economy is teetering on the edge; the healthcare system is being challenged; social issues are being exacerbated; weddings and funerals – major planks of our Bahamian life and culture – cannot take place. And now, an active hurricane season is threatening us once again.
It is ludicrous, contradictory, and somewhat suspicious that churches can be used as soup kitchens and hurricane shelters, but not for collective public worship.
The Christian church, in its highest form, is not a secular institution, and cannot always cower to the dictates of the state.
COVID-19 seems to have caused the state to cross the line and make encroachments into the calling and work of the church. This is extremely unfair and we cannot accept this any longer.
The collective fellowship of Christian worship is not only an imperative for the spiritual health of our people, worship is part of the human makeup; be it in a small wooden building on the corner or a massive cathedral downtown.
The deeper Biblical meaning of worship is that it is not a human whim or cultural tradition.
When we worship together, we are responding to the divine invitation of God in Christ to meet with God through the mystic body. The Christian church is only authentically biblical when it exists for people.
Of course, private, and even virtual worship has its merits, but for those of us who need to feed our spirits through communal worship, there is no substitute for the fellowship of believers. The fact that communal worship is not an option for the church is unacceptable.
The closure of churches for communal worship diminishes the power and efficacy of two or three people lifting their collective voices in praise and adoration. Christian believers worship a Holy God because we are imperfect and finite.
In this national crisis, when everything nailed down seems to be coming loose, if Bahamians can worship collectively while obeying established social distancing, sanitization, and other protocols, we believe they are better fortified with spiritual resources to face the unexpected.
We have concluded that the government should revert to its previous decisions that communal worship, as well as funerals and weddings, should be allowed according to the size of the church’s edifice and once social distancing and other relevant protocols can be put in place. We will continue to encourage our most vulnerable members and/or visitors to take additional precautions or to worship virtually or privately.
Again, we stress that we are not prepared to go much further with the current secular, shortsighted decisions.
Bishop Simeon B. Hall
New Covenant Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Phillip McPhee
Mt. Calvary Baptist Church