…lack of connectivity affecting live-streaming of church services in the west

Observer West reporter

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James - President of West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SDA) Pastor Glen Samuels says the lack of internet connectivity is negatively impacting the delivery of online sermons.

Since last week, many churches islandwide have been delivering their message to congregants via several social media platforms, as part of measures to curtail spread of the novel coronavirus disease(COVID-19).

The parishes of St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Hanover, and St James are under the umbrella of the West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists churches.

“Part of the issue we had [last Sabbath] is that internet facility is not available in a number of areas. That's part of the major challenge,” Pastor Samuels lamented during an exclusive telephone interview with the Jamaica Observer West earlier this week.

“Our online challenge is the absence of our providers of either Flow or Digicel in terms of internet facilities in some areas.”

In fact, the clergyman explained that some of its churches have been plagued by the lack of internet connectivity prior to the spread of COVID-19.

“Without COVID -19... when we were trying last year to do our online training programme to reduce our travelling costs, we had huge difficulties. I was in Santa Cruz earlier in February, before the COVID-19 outbreak, and had difficulty in uploading it [training programme],” he recalled.

Pastor Samuels noted that in a situation where internet facilities are absent, it is the elderly members of the flock who are most affected, as the younger members bank on the use of data on their smartphones.

“So what has affected the online platform is the absence of internet facilities in some areas. The younger members, they are fine because they have their own data plan on their smartphones,” he argued.

Yesterday, Elon Parkinson, public relations and communications manager at the Digicel Group, told the Observer West that a technical team from the telecom provider has been dispatched to the affected areas Pastor Samuels referred to.

“As a provider of essential services to the public, we have a duty of care to keep our network running, no matter what. Indeed, at a time like this, the services that we provide to customers could not be more vital or more needed. We take that responsibility very seriously. Likewise, we're taking this situation very seriously, and we sincerely regret the inconvenience being experienced by our customers in those areas. We have dispatched a team of engineers this [yesterday] morning to address the issues being faced by customers in those areas, as we work to keep everyone connected during this time,” said Parkinson.

Pastor Samuels had expressed that live-streaming is affected in areas such as Rejoin, Chambers Pen, Pondside, and Success in Hanover; Bath and Petersfield in Westmoreland; and Santa Cruz in St Elizabeth, among other communities.

Reverend Everton Jackson, pastor of the Calvary Circuit of Baptist Churches, which includes the Calvary Baptist Church in Montego Bay, Salt Spring Baptist Church and the Bogue Hill Baptist revealed that some members experienced loss of transmission at regular intervals during service on Sunday.

“Some of our viewers had intermittent challenges as well. There was no disruption in the Wi-Fi service where we broadcasted from, so we discovered that in some of the areas they seemed to have been having some challenges in persons receiving the broadcast. I don't know how widespread it was, but it seemed to me that might not have sustained for any long period of time because persons were commenting as they were viewing. They would post 'hearing now'... there was an intermittent kind of interruption,” Reverend Jackson explained.

He noted, however, that not all viewers of the two services, 7:00 am and 10:00 am, respectively, were members of the Calvary Circuit of Baptist churches.

“Once you go online its global because we had up to 700 persons viewing our 7:00 am worship and up over 400 persons viewing our 10:00am worship. We can't say if there were persons who had viewed this service from start to finish, there is nothing to indicate that, but what we noticed was that in terms of viewership at the time when the seven o'clock worship was being broadcasted, we had up to 700 people, and over 400 for the 10:00am worship because we have two worship times,” Reverend Jackson pointed out.

While revealing that the increase of online worshippers among the SDA Western Jamaica Conference was not significant last Sabbath, Pastor Samuels, however, underscored that strict observance to the not more than 20 people in a gathering was maintained at the churches. The prime minister has since further reduced the number to 10.

“We have enforced strictly the Government's policy of not having more than 20 persons in the congregation. I personally covered Bethel Town, Chester Castle, Mount Cairy, before putting up our auditorium to facilitate our online programme and we were well within the limit,” he said.

Reverend Jackson expressed that the online platform “has served a very, very good purpose”.

“... [I]n the sense that people who would not normally be in church and were not normally in church, disciplined themselves to share in the broadcast worships as if they were in church. Some persons would have posted 'singing along', that kind of thing. It requires a discipline that is sometimes not in our people. But, I think this has forced us to become a little more disciplined,” Jackson argued.

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