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Churches prepare for reopening next weekend

  • Proactive move: the Most Reverend Wieslaw Spiewak, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bermuda
  • All options: the Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, stands in The Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Hamilton (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Catholic churches will be open for Mass next week in the final stage of reopening the island, the Bishop of Hamilton said yesterday.

However, the Most Reverend Wieslaw Spiewak, the Roman Catholic Bishop, added the elderly and children should stay at home for their own protection. He said: “We should do everything to protect the vulnerable of our society, so even if Phase 4 is allowing the regular congregations in I would still be in favour of the elderly staying home and being safe.”

Bishop Spiewak added: “I understand that children and youth are the least vulnerable, but I understand parents can be hyper-protective of their children, so I just want to be proactive.”

But he said: “If they want to bring their children, we’re not going to stop them at the entrance if they are within the number of people that we are allowed to accept.”

The head of the Catholic Church in Bermuda was speaking after David Burt, the Premier, announced that the island was on track to enter the last stage of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

Phase 4, scheduled to start on Wednesday, will allow churches and other places of worship to hold services with congregations of up to 50 people and offer communion if precautions were taken.

Social-distancing will still have to be maintained and masks must be worn inside. Places of worship were allowed to reopen on June 11 with 20 per cent capacity and several safety restrictions.

Bishop Spiewak said that communion will be individually packaged and available to worshippers to take to those who stayed home.

He added that prayer books and hymnals had been removed from church pews.

Bishop Spiewak said that ushers would be stationed at church entrances to check temperatures, provide hand sanitiser and make sure that parishioners wore masks.

He added: “We try to follow what we’re told, not only because it’s a requirement of the Government but because I truly believe that it’s necessary.

“I listened to my friends who were facing this reality in Italy at the time when the coronavirus was very strong there.”

David Steele, the minister of Wesley Methodist Church in Hamilton, said that the church could open as early as July 19, depending on how comfortable the congregation was about a return to church.

He added the Church had sent a survey to its members and asked them whether or not they wanted to return next month.

Mr Steele added that he and other members of the Church would decide on July 6 if the Church would open later in the month or on September 13.

He said: “We’ll try to look at making every single possible aspect of the church service safe and make sure that our people are safe because that’s our No 1 concern.”

Damon Hendrickson, the pastor at Restoration Ministries Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southampton, said that the church would not reopen until early August.

He added: “The other leaders at the Church kind of felt that, because everything was reopening in Phase 4, we’d give it some time and see how everything goes.”

Mr Hendrickson said: “Many of our meetings happen in smaller rooms, so we’re worried about people being in those small rooms.”

Restoration Ministries has streamed their services online since the start of the pandemic so parishioners cold take part at home.

Mr Hendrickson said some members of his congregation preferred to watch online because of the convenience.

He explained: “Instead of having to get up and make this time to do this thing, they can get up when they want, relax and tune in at their own leisure.”

But Mr Hendrickson added that he looked forward to the reopening of the Church and a return to communal worship.

He said: “When we get back together, it’s going to be a time of rejoicing and it’s going to be a time to celebrate — with social-distancing, of course.”

Mr Hendrickson concluded: “I think people miss the idea of worshipping together and they miss the idea of gathering together — they just want to do it as comfortably as possible.”