The Diocese has suspended services in keeping with the Government’s restrictions on public gatherings of more than 20 persons, to help stem the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The directive to clergy and congregations was issued yesterday (March 17) by the Most Rev. Howard Gregory, Archbishop of the West Indies and Bishop of the Diocese of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands.
In a Pastoral Letter, Archbishop Gregory emphasised that, while this was a drastic step, the Church had a responsibility to adhere to the Government’s instructions. He explained that the decision was taken “not because of any lack of faith, as some would suggest, but out of a concern for the way in which our personal faith positions and actions may hold serious consequences for the life and wellbeing of other citizens.”
Noting that the restrictions on public gatherings were likely to be enforced for an extensive period, the Archbishop said they would significantly curtail activities during the current Lenten Season, and Holy Week which leads into Easter, the most important period in the life of the Church.
Preparations for the annual Synod at which the business of the Church is discussed, have also been impacted. Pre-Synod Conferences scheduled for March 24, 26 and 28 in Kingston, Mandeville and Montego Bay have been postponed. Archbishop Gregory said it was likely that the Synod, usually held following the Easter holiday, would be deferred to a date to be announced when the threat of the pandemic is reduced.
With respect to attendance at funerals and weddings, he urged clergy to educate the families concerned about the provisions of the law and to recognize that they would be held liable if they presided at a funeral or wedding at which the numbers violated the regulations.
In the meantime, the Archbishop encouraged the increased use of technology in worship, and as a means of connecting with members during this crisis.