Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Praise belted out amid church mask era

Published:Monday | May 18, 2020 | 12:27 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Jacqueline McIntosh (right) greets Marcia Jones Marshall yesterday as members of Power of Faith Ministries enjoy fellowship and reunion under new measures for church services that took effect on the weekend. COVID-19 restrictions have curbed mass gatherings, including at churches.
Jacqueline McIntosh (right) greets Marcia Jones Marshall yesterday as members of Power of Faith Ministries enjoy fellowship and reunion under new measures for church services that took effect on the weekend. COVID-19 restrictions have curbed mass gatherings, including at churches.

New measures including the mandatory wearing of face masks for the resumption of church services beyond a 10-person capacity could not muffle the praise of congregants at Power of Faith Ministries in Portmore, St Catherine, yesterday.

Scores of worshippers, all wearing masks, were eager to return to church, with many saying that their spirits yearned for fellowship.

The outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, triggered dwindling attendance after the first case emerged on March 10, with the Government ordering that no more than 20 persons were allowed to gather in places of worship and other buildings. That number was later shrunk to 10, forcing many congregations to engage in live-streamed services.

Those strictures have been relaxed to distances of 40 square feet in places of worship, allowing for some churches to accommodate scores more worshippers.

Evangelist Lameta Lugg said that the period away from church had given God’s people more personal worship with Him but emphasised that services should resume.

“We were not able to hug each other as we would normally do, but we were able to hail up each other with our elbows and feet. We were wearing masks, but it could not mask our praise,” Lugg told The Gleaner.

“It is like when you don’t see your biological family for a long time and you can’t hear from them, and then you eventually see them. We were excited.”

WONDERFUL AND AWESOME

Similarly, Jacqueline McIntosh said it was a “wonderful and awesome feeling” to reconnect with her fellow members.

“Even though we still had worship at home, it was different because the fellowship wasn’t there with our brothers and sisters for us to reach out to each other,” McIntosh said.

Up to Sunday, Jamaica recorded 520 SARS-CoV-2 infections, with three new cases in the last 24 hours – two from the Corporate Area and a third from St Thomas.

One hundred and twenty-seven people, representing just under a quarter of cases, have recovered. There have been nine related deaths.

Health experts have urged caution as dozens of countries globally, including Jamaica, prepare to kick-start flagging economies by loosening restrictions that have caused a haemorrhaging of jobs and driven down consumption.

But for an excited Marcia Jones Marshall, communicating with fellow church members via text messages was no substitute for the gathering of believers at their place of worship. The old proverb of iron sharpening iron is the succour she has long sought.

“Sometimes when we come to church, you might greet somebody who is not well, but then you can speak to them, lift them up, and encourage each other. I could be going through something and someone encourages me,” Marshall said.

Senior pastor at the church, Bishop Delford Davis, said that although time constraints limited the opportunity for persons to share personal testimonies, he was happy that the service was held in compliance with the Government’s social-distancing and sanitisation protocols.

“People have been out for all these weeks. Some felt as though they were in captivity. This morning was a time for joy and rejoicing,” Davis said.

Like other churches impacted by the coronavirus restrictions, Davis explained that Power of Faith Ministries was able to hold services online and on television.

“Whilst we were not physically together, we were together in virtual spaces, communicating, teaching, and encouraging the people. So really, whilst they weren’t together, they were not totally left out,” he told The Gleaner.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com