Church adheres call on social distancing

With the Government re-emphasising the need for social distancing in churches, the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they are bound by doctrine to follow State of Emergency (S.O.E.) restrictions.

The restrictions require two metres social distance between church goers during Sunday services. The government issued amended S.O.E. orders last week.

The church minister is to ensure that congregants adhere to the two metres social distancing rule.

President Jason Joseph, leader of The Church of Jesus Christ, Apia Samoa Central Stake, said members of the church have no choice but to obey.

“We have no choice but to observe the government law as part of our faith, our belief – to honour and respect all kings and rulers of the land. What we need to do is obey the law of the land in which we live,” he told the Samoa Observer.

“In Article of Faith 12, it says 'We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.' If they say we must observe two metres social distance then we must obey.”

The Apia Samoa Stake has a membership of more than 3,500 in nine different wards or congregations. 

President Joseph has instructed Ward leaders, or Bishops, to seat families together and space pews accordingly to meet the two metre rule.

“We seat the families together and everyone else needs to maintain their distance. That is what we did yesterday (Sunday)… it’s what I told all the Bishops to do. They have to space out the pews…they opened the overflow (section)  in the back. That’s how we do it,” he added.

“We have to follow the government’s regulations and obey the government rules.”

The 100 people limit does not apply to Sunday services, only to weddings and every other function that happens in the week but not for Sunday worship, President Joseph noted.

“That is the definition from the government – that on Sunday, all we need to do is observe the two metre distance but during the week if we have weddings or any other gathering, it should be 100 and below,” he said.

At The Church of Jesus Christ Malaela Stake, comprised of nine wards and more than 3,000 members, adhering to the two metre requirement is difficult.

“It is a problem and it’s difficult because some of the chapels are small. There are people sitting in the hallways. It’s especially difficult for families with small children,” said Malaela Stake President Sanele Su’a.

“It’s hard but the Bishops are helping to make sure the two metre rule is being followed. We are following the rule as set forth by the government for church on Sunday. The only difficulty is that some of the chapels they are too small and we have too many people.”

President Su’a, who attends Lalomanu Ward, said despite the difficulty, “we are following the two metre rule.”

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