The Jakarta Post
Churches across Indonesia have made adjustments to their approaching Good Friday services to adhere to social distancing measures and slow the spread of COVID-19.
According to the 2010 census, about 7 percent of Indonesia’s population is Protestant – a grouping of a number of denominations – while 3 percent is Catholic. Several provinces have a majority-Christian population, including East Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, Papua and West Papua.
Most denominations of Christianity observe Good Friday, which commemorates the day that Jesus Christ was crucified.
The COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia has made the logistics of the services more complicated.
The Christian Evangelical Church in Timor (GMIT) in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, for example, has decided to postpone its Lord’s Supper ritual, which was slated to take place during this week’s Good Friday observance.
GMIT earlier canceled its Palm Sunday service to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“The GMIT synodal assembly has decided that the performance of the Lord’s Supper ritual during Holy Week and Easter this year is postponed. We made the decision after much conversation, debate, prayer and reflection,” GMIT head Merry Kolimon told journalists in Kupang on Tuesday.
According to Merry, the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) has offered three alternatives for Good Friday observances this year; congregants could observe the day in their respective homes, observance could be postponed until the end of the crisis, or services could be performed together online.
“We have also read some theological references and have received suggestions from other pastors of the GMIT. But in the end, we decided to postpone the eucharist ritual of the upcoming Good Friday until the outbreak ends,” Merry said, adding that making the decision was not easy as many of the church’s congregants felt uneasy about the interruptions to Holy Week services.
She said, however, that celebrating Easter during a pandemic should make the faithful feel even more gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice.
“If, now, we are postponing the Lord’s Supper, it is because we believe that God’s blessing will keep flowing into our lives despite the postponement,” she said.
Meanwhile, Christians in Manado, North Sulawesi will also experience different Good Friday services. The Christian Evangelical Church in Minahasa (GMIM) has said that Good Friday will be observed from home through online streaming.
“The ritual will be guided from the church and will be streamed to houses,” GMIM head Carry Mamusung said on Monday.
“This decision was made after a coordination meeting with the North Sulawesi provincial administration, the regional leaders' forum and religious leaders in light of the recent situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic,” GMIM synod council chairman Hein Arina said.
The absence of congregational activities did not reduce the value of worship, he added. “It is only the place that is different than usual, but the value of our worship is not determined by whether we do it at home or at church.”
Arina acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic had disrupted the church’s religious activities but that every effort to end the pandemic had to be implemented.
The diocese of Manado has issued a circular regarding pastoral activities during the COVID-19 outbreak, which includes the cancellation of non-mandatory congregational activities and the postponement of mandatory ones.
“The [mandatory] liturgical activities can also be performed through live streaming,” Manado Bishop Benedictus ER Untu said.
Several celebrations during Holy Week, the bishop said, would still involve churches and chapels with some adjustments to avoid crowds.