The Blacktip Island interdenominational church will open its doors Sunday to worshipers for the first time since the small Caribbean island was placed under COVID quarantine in March. (Photo courtesy of Pierre Grunt)
Blacktip Island’s non-denominational church Thursday announced it will reopen and conduct silent services starting Sunday, in keeping with the Tiperon Islands’ COVID-19 prevention guidelines, church leaders said.
“The worry is any kind of vocal activity can aerosolize the virus, even if you’re wearing a mask,” the Rev. Pierre Grunt said. “Now that we’re allowed to hold in-person services, we have a duty to make them as safe as possible. That means no one’ll be allowed to talk. Even me.
“We did a trial run where I did a Power Point sermon, but that put people right to sleep,” Grunt said. “I settled on acting out my sermon. Folks are already used to silent prayers, and the congregation’ll hum the hymns. With any luck, the loudest noise during the service’ll be cash hitting the offering plate.”
Churchgoers praised the idea.
“It’s been ages since we’ve been to church, what with the lockdown and everything,” Sally Port said. “Reverend Grunt’s divinely inspired to come up with this solution. Everyone on island’s tested negative, but you can’t be too safe. There’s so many stories of false negatives.
“Some people suggested using American Sign Language, but turns out no one knows ASL,” Port said. “Reverend Grunt’s pretty good at getting his point across with gestures and glares, even before this. And it’s not like his sermons vary too much anyhow.”
Church officials stressed other safety precautions in place to encourage attendance.
“The pews are cordoned off in six-foot gaps with blue painter’s tape,” church deacon Goldie Gobie said. “And masks, of whatever nature, will be required. We’ve also instituted a do-it-yourself Communion where congregants bring their own bread and wine and administer it to themselves. We’re calling it a ‘BYO Eucharist.’
“With the distancing, though, anybody needing baptizing’s out of luck,” Goby said. “The Our Lady of Blacktip Catholic church’s doing drive-through blessings with Holy Water spray bottles, So that may be an option, undignified as it is.”
Some residents said they would not attend, despite the precautions.
“To me, it’s probably best to avoid church altogether,” Reg Gurnard said. “I’ve been doing that for years and I’ve been damned healthy. If it ain’t broke, I’m not about to fix it.”
Others are opting for alternative worship services.
“I’m having an all-inclusive, ecumenical service Saturday, underwater on Jawfish Reef,” the former Rev. Jerrod Ephesians said. “Anyone of any faith, or lack thereof, can come sit in the sand with me and get in tune with the universe. And I set up a GoFundMe page for offerings.”