PLACES of worship will be allowed to reopen on Thursday, not Friday as initially announced by the Prime Minister, to facilitate Corpus Christi celebrations. But members of the Anglican and Catholic Boards say while they are grateful, it may be too late of a notice to fully put things in place for the holy day.
At Saturday’s media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Dr Rowley had said the decision to reopen places of worship on Friday “should bring a lot of relief” to many people. He said services should be one hour, maximum.
But in a press release on Sunday morning, Rowley said the date was changed.
He said, “This will allow for nationwide church celebrations of Corpus Christi which comes on the eve of the originally scheduled reopening date.
“Believers and devotees are reminded that as we return to our places of worship later this week we must strictly observe the guidelines of sanitising, distancing and wearing of a mask by all persons attending places of worship.”
Last week, Archbishop Jason Gordon had told Newsday the celebrations would have strictly been streamed online and on TV. He said the mass would be held on Zoom – a video conference application – where all priests would be logged in.
He added, “Maybe some families will join in on Zoom as well. And we will also have adoration, as we would usually have on Corpus Christi, after the mass, all live on TV that morning.
“We will do everything while being very respectful of the situation in the country with covid19.”
He said the adaptation to the digital world was a very smooth process for him. Gordon added that there would be no procession after the mass, but that would not make the day any less significant.
Speaking with Newsday on Sunday morning, Vicar General Monsignor Christian Perreira of the Port of Spain Archdiocese said they are "working with and preparing" to have mass over the weekend.
"Unless the Archbishop says something else, on Wednesday we would have our digital Corpus Christi mass, and the Archbishop has a special (virtual) mass on Thursday which is the actual day. But we in the parish here are having one on Wednesday evening at 5pm."
He said, on Thursday evening there will be a meeting to discuss the new protocol to be implemented in churches.
"We will continue to celebrate Corpus Christi as has been planned.
"I think parishes have to put things in place, which we planned to do this week, given the holiday especially."
Head of the Anglican diocese, the Rt Rev Claude Berkley, said there will be a meeting on Monday to discuss the "policy draft for churches." He said after that, a decision will be made.
"Not all churches are in readiness. There may be some that are ready to go because they have been working all the time, and there are others that might not be ready.
"We had a plan for the Corpus Christi already. We were going to have a service that is carried on the Anglican Outlook Facebook page and then posted on YouTube. And when we weigh that against what is the general consensus around the wider parts of the diocese, then we will conclude.
But he said the change in date is a "welcome, much appreciated" gesture.
"But the question is whether or not we would have the readiness in place. We need to see whether we should allow some to go ahead or we continue as we have been going until we can have the greater majority sorted. I think that it is something we have to enter into cautiously so that we don't void the gains already achieved and create another problem."
Also on Sunday, the Presbyterian Church of TT issued a release suggesting a protocol for their churches to follow upon reopening.
This included: Daily sanitisation of the buildings – including pews, doorknobs and furniture, the installation of hand-washing stations at entrances, mandatory wearing of masks, clear signage indicating the new protocol, physical distancing and a 50 per cent occupancy, as well as family members from the same household being able to sit together. In addition, it suggested postponing Holy Communion services "indefinitely."
All places of worship throughout the country will now have to plan and outline new protocols as TT begins to adapt to the "new normal."
Newsday tried to contact Gordon but all calls went unanswered.