Churches should take advantage of online platforms for watchnight servicesThursday, December 31, 2020
Watch ye, therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning — Mark 13:35, King James Version, Holy Bible
In common with Christians across the world, Jamaican churches will observe the traditional watchnight service under severe constraints occasioned by the novel coronavirus pandemic which has upended life in general across the global.
As elsewhere, there are staunch churchmen and women who are resisting the changes being forced upon their form of worship by the presence of COVID-19 which, despite being the subject of possibly more prayers than any other matter this year, prevails.
One of the 'evils' forced upon the church is the inability to have packed buildings for worship, in keeping with the safety protocols aimed at containing the spread of one of the most contagious diseases encountered by mankind.
The Jamaican Government has stipulated that on December 31 — watchnight — curfew will begin at 10:00 pm and end at 5:00 am on New Year's Day. If no exceptions were given, watchnight services, which usually run from 9:00 pm to midnight, could not be held.
No Jamaican politician would dare to face the wrath of the church by banning watchnight services, although all other events attracting large gatherings have been prohibited. What the Administration has done, instead, is to make exceptions for the church.
Accommodation has been reached with the Jamaica Council of Churches allowing church services to be broadcast during the curfew, but only with pastors, technical personnel and musicians who deal with live-streaming in attendance. They will receive special passes to be on the road, presumably on their way home, after curfew hours.
“Congregants are therefore reminded to remain home during the curfew hours and view watchnight services on the platforms made available by their respective churches,” said a dispatch from the Office of the Prime Minister.
It is, perhaps, understandable that some church leaders and their members will find it painful to not be able to come together as a congregation, missing the socialising and fellowship. Most have accepted the new normal, but there are still some holdouts who don't seem constrained by the deadly virus.
It is also quite possible that some bishops and pastors are fretting over the fall-off in tithes and offerings when people do not come into the church physically. But this need not be. Smart churches are already running the church bank account numbers on screen during the services.
Those who embrace the online platforms are increasingly reaping the benefits. Aside from the one-time cost of setting up the broadcasting equipment, overall costs of running the church should be reduced by a drop in utility bills and building maintenance.
Members benefit from not having to travel to church every week, including twice on Sunday and Wednesday night prayer meetings, in some cases. They can also choose to attend more than one service or switch services as they like without leaving their homes. Members who have migrated can also join the services from their home countries.
Churches should not overlook the option of holding watchnight services earlier. As Mark 3:35 suggests, Christians have no special time during which they have to watch for the Lord's return.
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