18th March, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Now declared a pandemic, the new strain of coronavirus, termed COVID-19, has made its way to our region as there are reported confirmed cases and resulting deaths within the Caribbean. While, to date, there are no confirmed cases in the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis, it may only be a matter of time. Notwithstanding, the proliferation of fake news on social media is causing anxiety, concern, and in some cases, panic among congregants and the general public.
The COVID-19 will likely spread and affect all of us in one way or another and we therefore need to pay very careful attention to diet, exercise and personal hygiene. Consequently, the correspondence from the Connexional President, Bishop Everald Galbraith, urges members to adhere to the generally accepted recommendations on reducing the risk of infection within the societal contexts. Within the parameters given, the Circuit Staff of the St Kitts Circuit met on Tuesday, 17 March, 2020 and now offers the following Guidelines for Congregations, leaders and the general membership by providing the following information and recommendations for the church’s context.
Except in extreme circumstances, all visitations to the house-bound, hospitals, institutions for the elderly, HM Prison, and the New Horizon Rehabilitation Center are to be suspended with immediate effect until further notice. This does not stop our inquiring into their welfare through other means.
GROUPS AND ORGANIZATIONS
All groups and organizations should be suspended until further notice.
MEETINGS AND DISCIPLE BIBLE STUDY
We will use online facilities as far as possible for meetings or follow guidelines as far as social distancing is concerned. DISCIPLE Bible Study and the Lenten Teaching Sessions have been suspended.
WORSHIP SERVICES AND SPECIAL EVENTS
All services and special events in congregations and the Circuit are suspended as of Lord’s Day, March 29, 2020, March 22 being the last, until further notice. This is not as a result of “lack of faith”, as some may suggest, or a matter of numbers, but forms part of the Circuit’s effort to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
In the event of a confirmed case, then, the dates and times of funeral services will not be announced on the public radio stations/or television, but will become an occasion for close family members and close friends to say farewell in a small and dignified manner. Until then, there are no restrictions on funerals.
USE OF TECHNOLOGY
From Lord’s Day, March 29, 2020, Ministers and Preachers will continue as rostered for live broadcasts via the Methodist Radio Network (www.skmethodist.org and http://mixlr.com/methodist-radio-network) at 9: 00 am, with a possibility of linking with a Radio station. The details of which are being worked out. Where Services are being carried live, attendance will be reduced to 10-15 persons and should be 1 -11/4 hours in duration.
The use of Whatsapp and other media platforms are encouraged to support one another in these trying times. Ministers and Leaders are to ensure that clear congregational communication channels are established.
As of Monday, March 23, 2020, the Administrative Staff at the Circuit Office will work on reduced days covering Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
It stands to reason that with restrictions in place there will be financial implications for the church and the general membership. How do we mitigate a possible decrease in cash flow? How do members honour their giving commitments? How does the congregations and Circuit honour their financial obligations? Among the suggestions are that (i) where it is not already being done, direct deposits can be made to the congregation’s account via standing orders, online banking or in person and/or (ii) where possible, establish places, days and times for collection with the necessary controls in place. Of course, where option (i) is applied, the banking information would need to be supplied to members. Other suggestions are welcome.
Congregations are to discuss and agree on the most practical method for their congregation and inform members of the same.
Let us all take personal responsibility for our health, and that of our brothers and sisters, while ensuring that we wash our hands, avoid contact with the sick, stay at home if we are sick, and look out for others. These measures do not come from a place of fear, but out of concern for the way our personal positions and actions may have serious consequences for the life and well being of others.
The recommendations and restrictions are not exhaustive and are subject to revision and change as we monitor the situation.
Let us continue to place our faith in the God who “is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”, praying that God will grant us “a faith that will not shrink though pressed by many a foe”.
M S Christmas
Mark S. Christmas (Rev.)