Churches open, struggle with social distancing
Churches across Samoa reopened on Sunday morning for service, after a six-week closure brought on by a state of emergency (S.O.E.) declared by the Government.
The S.O.E. and its subsequent lockdown was declared to mitigate risks associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.
It was a full-house for most churches on Sunday after the Government announced the relaxing of the S.O.E. orders last Friday, which was amended to only allow morning services, but on the condition that the church hierarchy ensure congregation members adhered to strict social distancing rules.
Churchgoers from various denominations were spotted in their white attire on Sunday morning, walking to church with their bibles in hand and children in tow.
However, as it was the first church service after a six-week hiatus, some of the church halls did not have the capacity to enforce social distancing rules as more members of the congregation walked in.
For most, social distancing precautions were left at the door in favour of carrying out communion according to traditional practice.
At the Vaivase-Tai Congregation Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.), the church youth made the effort to measure and label how far each churchgoer should be seated from the next on one pew, to ensure social distancing was observed.
But as it was a full house for the first Sunday of the communion month, it was difficult for the congregation members to adhere to.
The same situation was observed at every other church that the Samoa Observer visited on Sunday morning. For many, the reopening of churches could not have come at a better time, as one of the country's celebratory Sunday is one week away.
Reverend Poasa Toiaivao and his wife, Lemina Toiaivao of the Anugamanono Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.) say they are happy to be able to host a service to coincide with Mother’s Day celebrations next week.
"We feel happy and our elderly are especially happy. They have been wanting to come to Church for a long time but they couldn’t like they are used to doing each Sunday. Church is where they talk and socialise.”
"If we didn’t have the [state of emergency], practice for skits and songs for Mother’s Day would have started a long time ago. But nothing is happening right now. So [Sunday] we will begin preparing and practising for Mother’s Day. "
Prior to the relaxing of the S.O.E. orders by the Government last Friday, a number of churches used television or social media including Facebook Live every Sunday to reach their congregation members.
AMENDED STATE OF EMERGENCY ORDERS FOR CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) 1 MAY 2020
(1) For Church, the following applies:
(a) there shall be one church service on Sabbath day (e.g. on Sunday for EFKS, on Saturday
for SDA); and
(b) social distancing of 2 meters is to be observed; and
(c) there shall be no crowds around church buildings before and after the church service, or
for any other after church activities; and
(d) the church Minister (faifeau) is to ensure the 2 meter social distancing in the church is adhered to.