Although the Jamaica Government allowed public religious services to resume last weekend (May 16/17), Catholic Church leaders there decided to delay for one week the reopening of its churches so as to properly prepare for welcoming an increased number of its faithful for worship.
A statement titled ‘Guidelines for restarting public worship’ was issued by the Archdiocese of Kingston Chancery Office May 13. It was signed by Archbishop Kenneth Richards of Kingston, Bishop Burchell McPherson of Montego Bay and Archbishop Emeritus Charles Dufour of Kingston, the Apostolic Administrator for Mandeville.
According to the statement, except for accommodating the increased number of persons who may gather, all previous guidelines remain “enforced”. Faithful and members of the clergy were reminded to “strictly” follow the 14 guidelines set out.
The statement said members of clergy ought to establish the number of persons that can be accommodated in one’s worship space applying the 40-square-feet requirement of one arm’s length to the right and left, in front and behind.
This will mean either seating persons in every other pew or where the pews are “extra-long”, staggering the space between persons seated in the second pew, maintaining the distancing.
The guidelines outlined the need to place markers to assist with seating arrangement. Family members may sit in the same pew, but out of charity for fellow congregants maintain social distance and accommodate parent(s) and child/children.
Protocol includes having a clear sign outside indicating the number of persons to be accommodated for worship. If the allowed capacity of persons is achieved, faithful can choose to return home, remain in one’s vehicle or stand or sit outside but physically distancing themselves.
Provisions are to be made for sanitisation for congregants, and temperature check for congregants so that only persons with the normal temperature range enter the worship space. “Sanitise the temperature measuring instrument after each individual check,” the statement advised.
Persons with a reading of 38° C (100.4° F) and over must return home. Anyone who feels ill or has a cough should stay home, as well as anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient. It highlighted that it is “mandatory” each person entering the church wears a mask.
Persons age 65 years and over, for their own welfare, are to “obey” the Government measures and not be present at public gatherings, including attending church. “Make home visit provision for such persons,” the statement said.
There can be music and a cantor, but no assembling of a choir. “Singing should be reduced or counted to the minimum to avoid filling the air space with respiratory droplets.”
There will be no passing of a collection bag, however, a receptacle should be provided for the faithful to deposit their collection. There will be no procession of the gifts, no physical touching for Sign of Peace “a bow is sufficient”, no sharing of the Cup with the Precious Blood “only the Celebrant consumes”, and Holy Communion will only be administered on the hand.