The Bahamas and the world are gripped in the throes of the biggest global public health crisis of our time, with more than one million people infected with COVID-19 globally and more than 53,000 dead.
As Christians gear up to commemorate Holy Week, religious leaders are encouraging people to keep hope alive through the testing of faith.
With the country in 24-hour lockdown, no gatherings of more than 10 people allowed and social distancing touted – which means churches will remain closed for Holy Week and Easter, Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander said because the “saints” aren’t able to come together in their respective sanctuaries, they can be deployed with the mandate of each one reaching one.
“This is a time to call a friend and strengthen them through a testimony, because they may have never reached the church house,” said Fernander. “A telephone call could reach them right where they’re at.”
It’s in times of crisis that many people turn to the church.
“If we take advantage of a crisis, it could turn into an opportunity for more people to give their lives to Christ,” said the Christian Council chief. “Although others are saying they might lose hope, I think our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ. So, because Jesus Christ is the center of our focus during Holy Week, I believe that we can turn this into a witnessing point via social media. Rather than the saints gathering in the sanctuary, the saints are now deployed – each one reach one.”
During Holy Week, Christians commemorate the Passion of Christ, who died on Good Friday for the sins of man and rose on Easter Sunday to give new life to believers. While Holy Week is solemn and sorrowful, it also anticipates the joy of Easter through the recognition of God sending His son to die for mankind’s salvation.
During this Holy Week, Fernander said people should bring their faith home, because they can’t congregate at the church building. He encouraged them in the midst of this ongoing crisis to develop their personal walk with Christ.
Bishop Moses Johnson, Church of God overseer, encouraged people to have hope, which he said is important. He also reminded people that the church is really not the four walls of the building, but rather the people.
“The mere fact that we cannot go to church tells us that we have to go to God,” said Johnson, adding that God is still in control and that people have to go to him.
“What we have to do now is find that personal relationship that God wants in us, so we have to find time to pray – find time for devotion. These are the times when we have a whole lot of time on our hand that we can spend with God. Even though we can’t make it to church, we can still have that union and that relationship with God that can help us to always stay in contact with God.”
Despite the trying times with efforts to contain coronavirus, and thousands of people without jobs for the foreseeable future, Johnson says people should never feel hopeless, because God is with them and their challenges will pass.
“We’re going to come out on the other end. There will be some casualties, but God knows exactly what he’s doing, and our faith should be strengthened because we’re going through. But when we come out, we’re going to be better than we were before.”
He also said he never thought he would see a global pandemic of this nature which has morphed into economic adversity.
“This is something that I could not see three months ago…to see where the country is today and to see the suffering – because most Bahamians, even if they work, cannot live one or two weeks without getting a salary, so for a lot of Bahamians it’s going to be rough. But this is the time when we must depend on God. I hear persons sending out voice notes and they’re not talking good about the religious leaders – but we must remember, whom God has ordained, we should not come against, and leave the judgment to God. But this country…we’re going to come out. I am optimistic. I am hopeful. I still believe in God and my faith is strengthened. We should never feel hopeless because God is our hope,” he said.